Friday, March 04, 2005

Syringe exchange: Bipartisanship with a Houston flair

It won't be difficult to remember the companion bill to SB 127 by Texas state Sen. Jon Lindsay, R-Houston, which would allow local governments to do syringe exchange programs. Yesterday state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, filed HB 2005, with the same purpose and language.

Let's hope the bill number is an omen.

Coleman sits on the House Public Health Committee, and, though a Democrat, is one of the most knowledgable and experienced legislators in the entire chamber on healthcare matters. If bipartisanship on the medical marijuana bill authorship (Naishtat/Keel) is an Austin affair, the other big harm reduction proposal this session, local option for needle exchange, so far, has a Houston flavor.

It's no wonder. Big cities and counties, especially those that operate hospitals with emergency rooms, are desperate to stop the spread of communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, which wind up costing the local taxpayers, in the end, through ER costs, or later on though healthcare costs in jail or prison.
This is a milestone, of sorts. Then-Rep. Glen Maxey, D-Austin, carried it for years in the House, then after he retired Sen. Lindsay carried it in 2003 in the Senate. But I'm not sure the bill has ever had sponsors in both chambers during the same session.

described by Grits previously, the Lindsay/Coleman legislation would let local governments choose to enact programs proven to reduce the spread of disease and promote habits of personal responsibility among addicts. Nobody would force any community to have one. Plus, they provide social workers and public health programs access to a particularly hard-to-reach audience that we know is spreading these diseases. The idea really makes a lot of sense. Here's hoping HB 2005 passes in '05.

1 comment:

NeedleLady said...

Wonder if you might provide an update on this post?