Congress has approved a bill that lifts the ban on federal funding to be used for needle exchange programs.
Needle exchange programs are a harm reduction measure to help to stem the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis among injection drug users. They can also serve as a way to connect people to counseling and treatment services.
As reported in Governing:
Needle exchanges like the one Poor visits could receive a financial boost this year following a decision by Congress to lift a ban on federal funding. As abuse of prescription drugs and opiates continues to spread across the nation, more states are considering exchanges as a way to save lives.
Indiana, for instance, opened its first exchange after an HIV outbreak last year.
The change in federal policy, part of a spending bill approved earlier this month, allows funding only in areas where drug-related cases of hepatitis and HIV are rising or are likely to. State and city health departments will make that determination along with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the legislation.
The money can be used to pay for staff and programs, but not for syringes.
Critics of needle programs counter that opening the door to federal funding could leave less money for treatment of people who want to get sober. The new law does not allot additional funds for the exchanges, but rather allows them to compete for existing drug program money.
MACo recently testified to support with amendments a bill that would provide statewide authorization of syringe exchange programs. Currently the programs are only authorized to operate in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. However, Baltimore City is the only jurisdiction in the state to have an operating program.