Chair of Texas House Committee Vows To Block Needle-Exchange Legislation
The chair of the Texas House Public Health Committee has promised to prevent from reaching the House floor a bill (SB 127) that would legalize needle-exchange programs in the state, the San Antonio Express-News reports. Texas law allows people to obtain clean needles only with a doctor's prescription, but people who inject illegal drugs are not allowed to obtain a prescription for the needles. The legislation has been approved by the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee and is expected to be debated on the Senate floor within two weeks, according to the Express-News. State Sen. Jon Lindsay (R), who previously has encouraged the passage of the bill, said, "You're not going to stop the drug use by denying them needles. They're going to find needles even if they have to reuse them." However, Rep. Dianne Delisi (R), chair of the House Public Health Committee, said, "I don't want to give free needles to known drug abusers," adding, "There's a lot of drug abuse. They're sitting there doing drugs in the parks. Well, not in Texas. Not under my watch." The current Texas law has left HIV/AIDS health care workers in a "tough spot" because they know their clients are sharing contaminated needles with others but cannot help them obtain clean ones, according to the Express-News. Some groups around the state have grown "weary" of the politics surrounding needle exchanges and have "quietly" started their own needle-exchange programs despite the law, the Express-News reports. "There have been quite open pilot programs in every major urban area in Texas," Sandy Bartlett, a community education worker at AIDS Services of Austin, said, adding that he knows of needle exchanges in Austin, Houston and Dallas (Kriel, San Antonio Express-News, 4/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.