Texas House Approves Amendment to Bill That Would Establish State’s First Needle-Exchange Program
The Texas House recently voted 71-60 to approve a provision in a Medicaid bill (SB 10) that would establish the state's first needle-exchange program in Bexar County, Texas, which includes San Antonio, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Rep. Ruth McClendon (D), who sponsored the provision, initially tried to add an amendment that would have created a statewide program. However, the program was limited to the San Antonio area after the broader program failed to gain support in the House. The details of the program have not been worked out, the Star-Telegram reports.
According to McClendon, needle-exchange programs help to curb the spread of bloodborne diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C, among injection drug users. Rep. Dianne White Delisi (R), who sponsored the Medicaid bill, did not dispute the potential public health benefits of an exchange program but said that Texas residents are concerned about whether "promoting the free exchange of needles for the illegal use of intravenous drugs is something the state should be doing" (Dyer, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 5/22). According to the Houston Chronicle, Texas is the only state that does not have a needle-exchange program (Elliott, Houston Chronicle, 5/22).