Wednesday, June 01, 2011
The legislature will not meet again for a regular session until January 2013. While similar legislation made history last session, we've lost some ground this session; making it even more important to continue to build coalitions, maintain support, and keep stakeholders engaged during the interim.
As this blog stated in 2009:
"So what now?
Over the summer House Speaker Joe Straus will be considering the issues he will direct House Committees to study during the interim. In order for House members and the public to have an even better understanding of the need for allowing syringe exchange programs to operate throughout Texas, it would be wonderful to see Speaker Straus direct the Public Health Committee to investigate the issue further and to provide a space for regional feedback on the issue from the public.
The committee could review the effectiveness of current efforts in Texas to curb the spread of HIV and hepatitis B & C among Texas' injection drug using population, and provide recommendations for how these efforts could be improved in order to save lives and reduce indigent health care costs to the state. Committee members might even be directed to travel to a state such as Maryland to visit longstanding successful syringe exchange programs where they can witness firsthand the measurable benefits of allowing such programs."
Remind your legislators why this issue is an important, compassionate, cost-saving and lifesaving measure during the remainder of their term in office, and especially during election season in 2012. Let them know that you, the constituent, are concerned about skyrocketing rates of HIV and hepatitis C in Texas. Let them know that you support measures to not only reduce disease, but reach out to individuals and families struggling with addiction; in order to build a network of support on a foundation of compassion and non-judgement.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
As reported by the Dallas Voice:
"HB 2229 seemed poised to pass until an amendment to the bill by Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, added a needle exchange program, a proven way to reduce the transmission of HIV and other blood-born diseases. Many House Republicans oppose such programs arguing that, by providing clean needles to IV drug users, they condone drug use. The House voted on HB 2229 and it failed to pass, 53-89. Fearing the demise of the bill, McClendon asked for an opportunity to withdraw her amendment. After she did the House tentatively approved HB 2229, 104-36. The final vote for House approval on Wednesday was 88-57."
With the session running out of time an amendment to a related bill is the only hope at this point for passing legislation that allows syringe exchange programs in Texas. Despite the success of needle exchange legislation in the Texas Senate and in the Public Health Committee during the 2009 session, the support of every major medical association in the United States and Texas, and over 50 letters from individuals and medical associations asking Chair Kolkhorst to schedule a hearing for House Bill 117 she has adamantly refused without offering a rational excuse as to why.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
"This is a health problem that's not going to go away and we've learned in our first year that it's a greatly needed service."
"We help people who are ready to take the steps of not using drugs anymore," Keller said. "They come to us when they've decided they're tired of living that way and want to get help."
Monday, April 11, 2011
Excerpts from the article:
"Recognizing that HIV and hepatitis were both spreading at alarming rates among injecting drug users (IDUs), public health officials in both the Netherlands and Australia began experimenting in the mid- 1980s with programs to supply addicts with clean needles in exchange for their used ones. The immediate and obvious success of these programs in reducing the incidence of both diseases—the rates quickly dropped as much as one third— led authorities in Canada and numerous European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin American countries to follow suit. In some locales, sterile syringes can be exchanged at pharmacies, police stations, and even from specially designed vending machines. At St. Vincent's Hospital, in Sydney, nuns operate the exchange. Even the hyper-conservative mullahs in Iran have approved of syringe exchange as an acceptable way to fight an HIV/AIDS epidemic spread mainly by drug users."
"Even more striking, at the November 2010 Harm Reduction Conference in Austin, Texas, Dr. Don Des Jarlais, Professor of Epidemiology at New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, reported that the incidence of new HIV infections among IDUs in in New York City has dropped to under one percent per year. "We appear," he said, "to be very close to eliminating injecting-related transmissions in a city with over 100,000 injecting drug users."
"No one seriously any longer seriously disputes the health and financial benefits of SEPs. In 2009, Congress finally removed its long-standing ban on using federal funds to support such programs. State laws vary, but 36 states have syringe- exchange programs and 13 others make other provisions for IDUs to obtain sterile needles. Only Texas still flatly prohibits the purchase or possession of syringes for the purpose of injecting illegal drugs, and that prohibition may not survive the state's 2011 session of its legislature."
Read full article here.
Thursday, April 07, 2011
"I have seen the costs of inflicted on taxpayers from the spread of diseases which can be prevented through these programs. State funds are so critical and changes must be made for Texas to remain a strong state. This bill requires none of those decreasing funds."
A mother writes:
"I don't wish for my son to carry the burden of the cost to treat individuals infected by carrying a needle carrying an explosive disease that can then be spread to other users and non-users when a simple and effective program such as syringe exchange could be operating in our state. These programs are designed to protect law enforcement, medical professionals and the common man."
A letter from The CHOW Project (click on photo at right to join The CHOW Project on facebook) in Hawai'i, a statewide syringe exchange program in existence for over twenty years, asks Texas to join them in "helping stop the spread of blood-borne pathogens and making our communities safer for everyone." Research has shown that, for every year that it has been in operation, the Hawai'i program is not only cost-effective but has decreased the transmission of infectious disease, lowered the chance of needle stick injuries in public spaces by ensuring proper disposal of contaminated syringes, and connected drug users with treatment and other services. Texas could realize these same benefits by passing HB 117 and allowing syringe exchange to operate in jurisdictions that opt to authorize programs, and all without requiring the use of state funds.
Write to Chair Kolkhorst urging her to schedule a Public Health Committee hearing for House Bill 117! Write to your Texas House Representative urging them to help save lives, reduce disease and drug use, and save taxpayer money by supporting syringe exchange as disease prevention.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
THA's letter states:
"Allowing local jurisdictions in Texas the option to allow syringe exchange programs will prevent new HIV, HBV and HCV infections, improve public health, and save lives without requiring the use of state funds. As hospitals and the health care system implement more cost-saving initiatives and preventive medicine, it is imperative that the state embraces programs that are proven to achieve these goals."
"Based on numerous, extensive research studies, the science is clear: syringe exchange programs are highly cost-effective, lifesaving and do not promote drug use."
THA has consistently support similar legislation in previous sessions. Thank you THA!
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
ANAC reminds Chair Kolkhorst that House Bill 117 would not require state funds, while reducing the risk of further HIV infection and associated costs. ANAC reminds Chair Kolkhorst:
"HIV/AIDS rates in Texas remain high, and Texas has the fourth highest rate of HIV/AIDS of any state. Needle exchange programs as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention package will save lives. Needle exchange programs are one of the most scientifically-based methods for reducing HIV."
Click on letter image below to read the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care's statement in support of HB 117.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
An excerpt from the letter (see full letter below):
" Based on numerous studies and extensive research evidence, the science is clear: needle exchange programs are highly cost-effective, lifesaving, and do not promote drug use. In addition to the reduced risks for disease, sterile syringe access programs facilitate greater access to drug treatment by providing a crucial entry point into medical care, detox and rehabilitation, and mental health treatment. Nearly 200 syringe exchange programs successfully operate in 38 states, Puerto Rico, Washington DC, and Indian Lands. Allowing local jurisdictions in Texas the option to support these programs will prevent new HIV, HBV and HCV infections, improve public health and save lives."
The letter also reminds legislators that Texas is currently wasting taxpayer dollars treating blood borne infections that it could be preventing through the simple measure of access to sterile syringes.
When legislators and fellow Texans are ready to listen to science and reason, and support effective disease prevention programs, savings will follow.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
- AIDS ARMS
- AIDS SERVICES OF AUSTIN, INC.
- AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF TEXAS
- BEXAR AREA HARM REDUCTION COALITION
- BEXAR COUNTY COMMISSIONERS COURT
- COALITION FOR NURSES IN ADVANCED PRACTICE
- COASTAL BEND AIDS FOUNDATION
- COUNTY JUDGES & COMMISSIONERS ASSOCIATION OF TEXAS
- CHRISTUS SANTA ROSA HEALTH CARE
- HARRIS COUNTY HEALTHCARE ALLIANCE
- HEPATITIS C ADVOCATE NETWORK
- HOUSTON AREA IMMUNIZATION PARTNERSHIP
- LATINO HIV TASK FORCE
- LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF TEXAS
- LEGACY COMMUNITY HEALTH SERVICES
- LIVER HEALTH TODAY, HOUSTON
- MOTHERS AGAINST TEEN VIOLENCE
- PARKLAND HOSPITAL
- SAINT MARK'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, SAN ANTONIO
- SAN ANTONIO AIDS FOUNDATION
- SCOTT & WHITE CENTER FOR HEALTHCARE POLICY
- SOUTH TEXAS SUBSTANCE ABUSE RECOVERY SERVICES
- TEXAS ACADEMY OF FAMILY PHYSICIANS
- TEXAS ACADEMY OF INTERNAL MEDICINE
- TEXAS ADVOCACY PROJECT
- TEXAS HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION
- TEXAS IMPACT
- TEXAS MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
- TEXAS NURSES ASSOCIATION
- TEXAS PEDIATRIC SOCIETY
- TRINITY COUNTY
Bill Hoelscher, Executive Director of Coastal Bend AIDS Foundation, states in a letter (see below) to HB 117 author Rep. McClendon (D-San Antonio), "Some may have concern that allowing needle exchange programs in Texas will be a nod of approval, that substance use is acceptable. Reality is that no has an answer to stop the wide spread use of drugs in Texas, but there is the potential to stop the spread of a disease that is costing us millions of dollars each year."
Several Texas County Judges and Sheriffs have written letters to their State Representatives supporting House Bill 117 and the potential for syringe exchange programs to avert new cases of HIV and reduce drug use in their localities.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
In 2009 Congress voted to remove the ban on funding syringe access, allowing states, local governments and non-profits to offer cost effective disease prevention that is in the best interest of their communities.
Last month, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a statement affirming the public health value of syringe services programs (SSPs). The notice reiterates that syringe exchange services are an effective way of reducing HIV, while also encouraging people to enter drug treatment. The Surgeon General's notice cites a study that found that participants of a syringe exchange program were five times more likely to enter drug treatment than people using injection drugs who did not have access to or visit a syringe exchange program (Hagan et al. 2000).
To view the notice, issued by the Health and Human Services Department on February 23, 2011, click here. The notice was issued in the Federal Register Vol. 76, No. 36 page 10038. Please visit SAMHSA's (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) "Bibliographic Support for the Syringe Services Program" for a list of studies supporting the efficacy of syringe exchange.
Friday, March 11, 2011
As a physician, I support needle exchange programs because I want to see HIV and Hepatitis B and C fought with the best tools available.
As a Christian, I support needle exchange programs because I know every life has value to God, who does not allow me to give up on anyone."
"I wish this was not an issue which we needed to address. I would much prefer that no one in Texas would ever get addicted to injected drugs or put themselves and others at risk for dangerous and often deadly diseases. But since these problems exist, we must fight them with the very best tools at our disposal."
Thursday, March 03, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
In 2007 and 2009, Senator Bob Deuell championed syringe exchange in the Texas Senate. Martin recalls Deuell's support for syringe exchange as grounded in not only science, but also in compassion and Christianity.
'Sen. Bob Deuell, a conservative Republican and a practicing doctor, sponsored similar bills in both 2007 and 2009. "At one time," he recalled, "I was opposed, but I looked at the data. When people have disagreed with my vote, I've shown them the data and asked them, 'How could I argue with that?'" A fiscal conservative, Deuell also noted that syringe exchange makes good economic sense: "It costs us a fortune to treat HIV and hepatitis C. It's breaking the budget."
Deuell's support of needle exchange does not rest on science and economics alone. "I look at it from the Christian viewpoint," he said. "What would Jesus do? We need to show compassion and try to help. [Addicts] are God's children, too. When they need new needles, this puts them in touch with someone who might reach them. The very act of handing them clean needles says, 'Your life has value to me. I want you to know that we care about you. When you want to get off, we're here to help you.' If they're in a back alley, using a dirty needle, there's no chance of that."'
States that offer syringe exchange programs have significantly reduced the incidence of HIV among injection drug users.
'A Johns Hopkins study of the Baltimore City Needle Exchange found that, after six years in operation, the incidence of HIV in Baltimore decreased by 35 percent overall and 70 percent among the approximately 10,000 participants in the program. Even more striking, epidemiologist Don Des Jarlais, director of research at New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center and a leading expert on syringe exchange, reports that the incidence of new HIV infections among injecting drug users in New York City has dropped to less than 1 percent per year. "We appear," he said, "to be very close to eliminating injecting-related transmission in a city with over 100,000 injecting drug users." '
Thank you Mr. Martin for presenting the facts and reminding us that syringe exchange as disease prevention has had strong support, from Republicans, Democrats and Christians alike, here in Texas.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
- Primary Author, Rules and Resolutions (Procedural) Chair Ruth Jones McClendon; and
- Joint Authors Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II Chair Doctor John Zerwas,
- County Affairs Chair Garnet F. Coleman, and
- Appropriations, House Administration (Procedural), and Public Health Committee member Susan King.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
Friday, January 07, 2011
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Thursday, December 09, 2010
1. Needle and syringe programmes (NSPs)
2. Opioid substitution therapy (OST) and other drug dependence treatment
3. HIV testing and counselling (T&C)
4. Antiretroviral therapy (AR T)
5. Prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
6. Condom programmes for IDUs and their sexual partners
7. Targeted information, education and communication (IEC) for IDUs and their sexual partners
8. Vaccination, diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis
9. Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis (TB)
The report urges legislators to remove legal barriers to syringe exchange and calls for a cooperative effort among law enforcement and health workers in order to increase access to HIV prevention, treatment and care.
Monday, December 06, 2010
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
As we reflect upon history made by the Texas Legislature in 2009 and prepare for the 2011 82nd Legislative Session, we are happy to report that the ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs has finally come to an end in the interim. As proposed in 2009, Texas Senate Bill 188 would have allowed local options for disease prevention programs including syringe exchange. Senate Bill 188 made history by making it farther through the legislature than any similar legislation filed since 1993, inspiring the largest bi-partisan coalition of House and Senate bill authors and supporters ever on this issue, and bringing together an unprecedented and diverse coalition of supporting organizations from around the state. We are optimistic that in 2011 Texas will follow the lead of the U.S. Congress and keep pace with the nation in allowing programs that effectively save lives and taxpayer money.
As of 2008, 14,147 Texans were living with HIV/AIDS as a result of having acquired this deadly disease directly from injection drug use, or indirectly as a partner or child of an injection drug user. An estimated 300,000 Texans are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), the leading cause of liver disease. Injection drug use is the number one risk factor for HCV. Syringe exchange programs safely and effectively reduce the transmission of these diseases and save the state from bearing the burden of millions of dollars in treatment costs.
Austin is fortunate to host the 2010 8th National Harm Reduction Conference, Harm Reduction Beyond Borders, November 18 - 21. The conference takes place at the Renaissance Hotel at 9721 Arboretum Boulevard. Please visit the website for further details (www.8thnationalharmreductionconference.com). We invite you to join like-minded Texans at a special conference session hosted by The Access Project, Texans Mobilizing for 2011: Syringe Exchange in the 82nd Texas Legislative Session, on Thursday, November 18th, 2010 at 7:15 p.m. The Access Project looks to bring stakeholders to the table to organize and plan advocacy action steps for the upcoming legislative session.
For further information on the history, safety and effectiveness of these lifesaving programs please visit The Access Project website (www.texasaccessproject.org) or contact Jenny Panzo, Education Coordinator at The Access Project, at email@example.com. The Access Project looks forward to seeing you at the conference!
Jenny Panzo, MPH