Texas Bills To Legalize Needle Exchanges Would Save Lives, Taxpayer Money, Opinion Piece Says
Proposed legislation (SB 127, HB 2005) in the Texas Legislature that would legalize needle-exchange programs in the state "deserve[s] to become law" because it would "save many lives and greatly reduce the medical costs paid by the taxpayers of Texas," Grace Jameson, a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at University of Texas Medical Branch, writes in an Austin American-Statesman opinion piece (Jameson, Austin American-Statesman, 4/13). Current 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 about a week. However, state Rep. Dianne Delisi (R), chair of the state House Public Health Committee, has promised to prevent the bill from reaching the House floor. Some groups around the state have started their own needle-exchange programs despite the law (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/8). "Every major medical organization that has ever studied the issue testifies to the effectiveness of syringe-exchange programs" at curbing the spread of bloodborne diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, among injection drug users, Jameson says. If Texas legislators had "understood the nature of ... communicable diseases" when the laws forbidding the sale and distribution of needles without a prescription were enacted 30 years ago, "surely syringe exchanges never would have been prohibited," Jameson says. "But we have that information now, and it is an appalling disservice to the taxpayers of Texas to continue to ignore it," Jameson writes (Austin American-Statesman, 4/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.