Friday, April 17, 2015

Texas House moving harm reduction measures

There were a couple of positive developments on the harm reduction front in the Texas House this week involving bills your correspondent supported in committee:

Good Samaritan bill moves to Senate
On Tuesday, the lower chamber approved HB 225 creating a defense to prosecution when someone calls 911 in response to an overdose, stays at the scene, and cooperates with police - so called "Good Samaritan" legislation. It passed by a 140-4 margin. This is an important sleeper issue, as "overdosing on medications and illicit drugs has been a bigger killer in the U.S. than car crashes or gun deaths at more than 120 per day," according to coverage of the bill from Texas Public Radio. The legislation also authorizes first responders and folks with prescriptions to use naloxone, an opiod antagonist that can save lives during emergency situations but which itself is non-addictive and causes no known side effects. The bill is now in the Senate where its companion was referred to the Criminal Justice Committee.

Unanimous committee support for needle exchange bill
After some initial confusion and a motion to reconsider, CSHB 65 authorizing privately funded and operated needle exchange pilots in several counties passed out of the County Affairs Committee yesterday on a 9-0 vote. See supportive coverage of the bill out of San Antonio and an earlier Grits analysis. HB 65 had seemingly stalled before conservatives threw their support behind language which eliminated all public funding and empowered counties and hospital districts only to authorize other organizations to operate needle exchanges - county government won't operate the programs. Volunteers with authorized needle exchanges will be exempt from prosecution under the paraphernalia laws and the bill includes some reporting requirements for participating organizations on the back end. Indiana of all places, recently suspended that state's ban on needle exchanges in response to a public health crisis.


Jordan said...

Very happy to see the needle exchange bill passed through the Committee. I do understand people's initial confusion with needle exchange programs - but they're incredibly important.

Charles S. said...

Finally good news on the needle exchange programs.