Sunday, May 17, 2015

Will Texas join conservative states adopting syringe exchange in 2015?

In the wake of the Texas House of Representatives approving syringe exchange legislation last week,* Grits was interested see this article in the New York Times about changing laws and attitudes on the topic in conservative states. Though the Texas vote wasn't mentioned, the Times' Carl Hulse reported:
Now, with a severe outbreak of H.I.V. and hepatitis due to a surge in heroin use in states including Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia, the question of whether to let federal money support needle exchanges is back. Still, in contrast to a new willingness by state politicians to accept needle exchanges, Congress appears unlikely to overturn the moratorium even with drug problems hitting hard in states represented by those responsible for the spending bills that impose the ban. ...
Though evidence has mounted that needle exchanges are effective — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, among others, have recommended them — they have remained anathema to many politicians, particularly Republicans who have long framed opposition as an essential element of their antidrug image.

“As Republicans, we don’t want to look like we are facilitating drug use,” said Representative Tom Cole, the Oklahoma Republican who is chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that distributes health funding. “We want to get you help, but we want to do other things.”

While expressing reservations, Mr. Cole acknowledged that public funding of needle exchanges could be more cost effective than the potential public expense of treating increasing numbers of AIDS and hepatitis cases. He said he expected the issue to come up as Congress put its health spending bill together and, like [Rep. Harold] Rogers, said he was open to exploring the issue.
“If the evidence is such that it really makes a difference, it is something to look at,” Mr. Cole said.
To some Democrats, there is no question that the ban should be eliminated and that Republicans are stuck in the past when it comes to both drug and health policy.

“We should lift the ban,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, a senior Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee. “Health, and not ideology, should be the determining factor.”
In Indiana, an epidemic of H.I.V. related to intravenous drug use in one southeastern county led Gov. Mike Pence, a former Republican House member and longtime supporter of the ban, to back away from his opposition. In March, he signed an executive order allowing a temporary needle exchange in Scott County. This month, he signed legislation allowing counties around the state to begin exchanges if officials can demonstrate that they would be an appropriate public health response. The Kentucky Legislature, on a bipartisan basis, also passed legislation allowing needle exchange programs.
Apparently Mr. Hulse didn't know about the Texas House's remarkable vote to approve syringe exchange pilots in seven counties on essentially conservative grounds - it would have fit perfectly into his story's narrative. But perhaps news of such programs spreading in conservative states will contribute to new momentum on the senate side, where the Texas bill still awaits referral to committee.

Grits wondered before session whether changing political dynamics regarding the drug war and disease prevention might give needle exchange legislation new legs. Apparently that's the case, and not just in Texas.

*Your correspondent supported this legislation on behalf of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.


TriggerMortis said...

The government is 100% responsible for the rise in heroin addicts. There has been a glut of Afghan heroin on the market since we invaded the country due to our agreements with the warlords there not to interfere with their enterprises.

The question of how to remove this glut of cheap, pure heroin was answered by the DEA which began targeting the relatively safe pharmaceuticals such as Oxycontin, which forced addicts to seek out and find the most dangerous drug ever known to mankind.

Some politicians and DEA agents are raking in billions of dollars through this.

Anonymous said...

Grits I know this is completely off topic but there has been a major development on the Stingray front. As expected, the Feds have dropped the dime on local cops about the actual meaning of the NDAs(Non Disclosure Agreements) which spells trouble ahead for local cops and prosecutors.

Anonymous said...

Having this idea fly in Texas may indeed be a "Nixon to China" moment, but I doubt that the program is as helpful as its proponents suggest or as negative as its opposition fears.

Prison Doc

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Ain't that always the way, PD?

The data supporting the idea are real enough. It's not a panacea but it's a statistically viable disease prevention strategy and also an outreach vehicle for getting front-line medical services and treatment referrals to hard-to-reach populations. So some benefit, less harm, not really worth the culture-war driven disputes that often surround it.

Anonymous said...

TM- Some politicians and DEA agents are raking in billions of dollars through this. Really? Billionaire DEA agents? Can you name one?

Anonymous said...

A quick google search shows syringes for sale for $.15 each and needles for $.41 each. If you cannot afford this, then pick a different hobby besides shooting up smack.

So what role should the state play? Get out of the way, let people live their lives, regulate pharmaceuticals for purity and dosage.

Anonymous said...

Hey 11:43,, ever bought any syringes in Texas without having a insulin script?
Can't buy in my neck of the woods unless you are a diabetic