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Drug Users in California to Have Better Access To Clean Needles

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peter Simpson runs Harm Reduction Services, a syringe exchange program in the city of Sacramento. He says this fiscal year, they'll give out 140,000 needles to drug users.

SIMPSON: "They're either meth users, using crank or methamphetamine which is a stimulant, or they're heroine using which is a narcotic."

Studies show needle exchange programs are effective in reducing HIV transmission.

California has thirty-seven exchange programs, and a new law could help authorize more. 
Currently, counties and cities grant the permission.  
But starting in January, the state can also allow them in areas they say are at risk for rapid spread of deadly bloodborne infection.
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner carried the bill. She says it will allow state officials to be more responsive.

SKINNER: "This enabled the state department of public health to initiate where it might not have been initiated otherwise."

The bill was opposed by statewide law enforcement groups and cities. A faith-based coalition said it will have a negative impact on neighborhoods.

The Sacramento program has a drop in center, but also goes out to homeless encampments and trailer parks.

Simpson says it's part of the strategy to make drugging behavior less harmful for everyone.

SIMPSON: "The best approach in dealing with someone who is a drug user is to try to assist them in being healthier and doing better along the lines of what they think is possible."

Also this January, pharmacists can sell up to thirty syringes to California adults without a prescription.
Right now pharmacies can sell up to 10 syringes with government permission.
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