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Date: May 12, 2016
STATE OF DELAWARE
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
Dover, DE (May 12, 2016) - Today, Governor Markell announced his support for legislation that would authorize the Division of Public Health (DPH) to expand the Syringe Exchange Program (SEP) statewide to help reduce the sharing of potentially infected needles and support the state's larger efforts to address opioid addiction and HIV transmission. This enabling legislation would allow the program to go statewide should federal funding become available.
"Heroin abuse continues to affect communities across our state, and needle exchange programs can help those struggling with addiction to avoid getting other diseases as we connect them to treatment for their addiction," said Governor Markell. "A statewide expansion of Delaware's needle exchange program will protect IV drug users from infections such as HIV, hepatitis and other bloodborne diseases. In doing so, we also protect the families and partners of these individuals, keep our streets and neighborhoods free of needle litter, and hopefully get more people into treatment for their addiction."
"While our ultimate goal must continue to be securing addiction treatment for the Delawareans who need it most, we must do whatever we can to ensure that IV drug users are not putting themselves or the public at further risk by using contaminated needles," said Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry. "Like drug use, diseases like HIV and hepatitis disproportionally impact low-income and minority populations and we have a moral responsibility to take these sorts of prudent measures to stop the spread of these devastating diseases."
"During the past decade, we have seen the needle exchange program have a positive impact in the City of Wilmington by reducing the spread of HIV infections and other diseases that can be transmitted through a used needle. It also has helped connect people to various services and resources to reduce drug use," said Rep. Helene Keeley, who sponsored the original needle exchange bill in 2006. "However, intravenous drug use is not just a problem in Wilmington; it's a concern throughout our state. Expanding this successful program throughout Delaware will hopefully have the same benefits up and down the state that it has had in the city, reducing the spread of diseases and connecting people to the services they need to combat drug use."
"We have long been supporters of needle exchange programs because they work in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS," said Peter Houle, executive director of the Delaware HIV Consortium, one of the state's largest providers of services to people with HIV/AIDS. "We helped form the coalition that pushed through Delaware's first effort at needle exchange. We support expansion of the program to serve all three counties in Delaware effectively. Since the recent surge in the use of heroin began, we have been hoping for expansion of the clean needle exchange program - it's just good public health policy that will save lives."
The Delaware SEP was established in 2007, initially as a pilot program in Wilmington. With this legislation, the program will no longer be limited to Wilmington and will be permitted to operate in areas of need throughout the state. While New Castle County and the City of Wilmington have significant numbers of people living with HIV resulting from IV drug use, the issue, along with the larger addiction epidemic, exists statewide.
Under the law, injection drug users can be provided with referrals to appropriate treatment and access to a 1-for-1 exchange where participants will receive one sterile needle and syringe unit in exchange for each used needle. The program is also designed to maintain maximum security of exchange sites and equipment, including security measure that will allow for:
In addition, the program educates participants about the dangers of contracting HIV or hepatitis through needle-sharing practices, and provides HIV and other communicable disease testing when and where available and appropriate. All participants can access counseling and treatment services, as well as follow-up to any of those services, to ensure participants can receive the most comprehensive treatment possible.
SEP has proven to be an effective way of reducing the use of potentially contaminated needles:
IV drug use is a one of the primary paths to acquiring HIV. In Delaware, 43 percent of those currently living with HIV/AIDS and 50 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases are directly or indirectly related to needle sharing. This legislation could reduce the health risks for intravenous drug users and also protect their wives, husbands and partners.
Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.