A majority of Public Health Committee members already voted for needle exchange once. The House had a vote in 2007 on an amendment by Rep. McLendon to allow a needle exchange pilot in Bexar County that tells us a lot about the bill's likely reception on committee. Here's how the committee members voted on that 2007 amendment:
Ayes: Naishtat; Coleman; Gonzales; Hopson; McReynolds, King, S;Though Rep. Kolkhorst wasn't there for the 2007 vote, the fact that the chair decided to give the bill a hearing shows she's at least open to the idea, and if she allows the committee to vote on the bill, by this count the votes are there to pass it.
Nays: Laubenberg, Truitt
Absent: Kolkhorst; Davis, J;
Present not voting: Zerwas
Two other notable, key "aye" votes for needle exchange from 2007 pop out from the list: Calendars Committee Chairman Brian McCall and House Speaker Joe Strauss. That makes me hopeful SB 188 will make it to the House floor for a vote if it clears the Public Health Committee.
Needle exchange isn't a cure all, but it helps at the margins to prevent disease, reduce public health costs and make it more likely program participants access drug treatment. According to a fact sheet from the Texas Department of State Health Services, found via the blog Sifting the Haystack:
- More than 14,000 Texans got HIV when they were injecting drug users.
- About 240,000 cases of hepatitis C in Texas are linked to sharing syringes.
- Preventing 100 new cases of HIV would save $38,000,000 in medical costs.
- Syringe exchange could prevent 100 new cases of HIV per year in Texas.
- A study comparing 81 cities found the HIV infection rate decreased 5.8% per year in cities with SEPs and increased by 5.9% in cities without SEPs.
See prior, related Grits posts:
- Needle exchange bill sails through Senate, heads to House
- Will 2009 be the year Texas approves needle exchange?
- Good chances for Texas' needle exchange bill next year, but assume nothing
- Needle exchange gets unexpected 2009 boost
- Bully Bexar DA says she didn't pick needle exchange fight (but she did)
- Needle exchange bill pits small government Republicans vs. authoritarian wing
- Texas Senate prescribes voluntary needle exchange
- Wow! Texas House approves pilot needle exchange
- Lone Star Times: Delisi needle exchange stance shows why GOP may lose majority
- Delisi: Research, Smesearch, I don't wanna
- Dr. Deuell prescribes needle exchange legislation