If passed, it would only cover Washington County.
Annapolis, Md (KM) Needle exchange programs would be banned in Washington County if a bill sponsored by Delegate Neil Parrott is passed.
Under these programs, addicts exchange their dirty needles for clean ones. The used needles are disposed of. As part of the program, addicts are educated about treatment programs so they can get free from their drug addictions.
But Parrott, who calls them needle give-aways, says that’s not how these programs are working. “It’s been going on in Baltimore city for about 25 years. At first, it was a needle exchange program where someone would get maybe 20 needles, and to get more, they had to bring those 20 back, and they get more” he says. “They found it wasn’t working. So about five years, the General Assembly changed it. So now it’s the needle give-away program.”
In addition to the city of Baltimore, Frederick and Washington Counties have needle exchange programs. If the bill passes, the programs in Frederick County and Baltimore city would not be affected.
Parrott says he sent one members of his staff to investigate the program in Washington County. That person found out that the emphasis was on drug use, not getting addicts off of drugs. “Not only did they give him the needles, they gave him a tourniquet that would go around the arm. They also gave him a burner, so that you can actually burn the drug in there and then put it into the needle. Basically, it was drug starter kit,” he says.
Supporters of these programs say they also help slow the spread of HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases. Parrott says Baltimore has had this program for a number of years, but the city still has a problem with STD’s. “Baltimore city, has the highest rate of STD’s in the entire country, the blood pathogen-type diseases which are transmitted by needles,” he says.
He also points out that it isn’t blood pathogen-type diseases which are causing most of the deaths among drugs addicts administer with needles. “What’s really killing people now are not the blood-borne pathogen diseases. What’s killing people is the opioids themselves, and the fentanyl which goes into the needles.,” says Parrott
The bill has received the endorsement of the Washington County Commissioners, and that’s a big boost. “Obviously, I’d like to see it stopped. But if it’s not stopped, at least change it, so it has a lot more emphasis on getting people off of drugs,” says Delegate Parrott.
A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Friday, February 28th at 1:00 PM in Annapolis.
The Frederick County Health Department calls its needle exchange a “syringe services program.” On its website, the Health Department says the program provides needles and other injection equipment, fentanyl test strips, and safe disposal containers for used syringes. In addition, overdose response training and naloxone is provided, along with rapid HIV and Hepatitis education, testing and information on care, along with linkage to care and community resources for addicts who want to get off drugs.
The Department says syringe service programs increase entry into substance abuse treatment programs, and reduce needle stick injuries and overdose deaths. It also says these programs do not increase drug use or crime.
By Kevin McManus