There is a bright and shiny light shining out from the Republican part of Texas. It must be the reflection of the syringe access bill that Senators Deuell (R-Greenville) and Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) joint-filed last week. SB 308 was accompanied by a stellar press release from Deuell's office which laid out their reasoning behind the bill:
Deuell Files Needle Exchange Bill
Doctor / Senator Says Program Will Save Lives and Money AUSTIN --
State Senator Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) today filed SenateBill 308, relating to disease control programs aimed at reducing the risk of communicable diseases. A key component of the bill would allow local health authorities to set up programs that permit anonymous exchange of used hypodermic needles. Deuell, a practicing family physician, stated the program will save lives, save money and could actually help get drug abusers into rehabilitation and treatment.
Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), a certified pharmacist, has signed on as a joint author. "I have seen extensive research that show programs like this reduce the spread of hepatitis and HIV, and do not encourage or increase the use of illegal drugs," Deuell said.
"On the fiscal side, the cost of treating a single HIV case run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars making this program cost-effective as well."
Deuell also said this initiative may have the added incentive of getting drug users into treatment. "The local health authorities who administer these programs may also provide drug counseling and treatment," Deuell said. "This might be the only time we can get to these people and give them the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves. One study showed more than 1,000 drug users found their way into treatment through a needle exchange program."
"As a physician and a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I am confident these programs make sense from a medical and a fiscal standpoint," Deuell said. "I firmly believe this represents good,conservative public policy."
We want to congratulate the senators on this groundbreaking effort in the fight against HIV and other blood borne diseases in Texas. We also want to encourage our readers to contact Senators Deuell and Van de Putte and express their support. In addition, please contact your own Senators and Representatives and tell them to support SB 308 and it's House companion, HB 856, filed by Ruth McClendon(D- San Antonio)
We have already seen a great response on the left and the right sides of the blogosphere. Particularly this entry from the Lone Star Times is right on the money. Syringe exchange is good conservative policy and the "christian " thing to do.
One invisible beauty of this bill is that it will not require any spending money from the state, making the fiscal note on the bill a big zilch. And as a bill that seeks to remove penalties rather than mandate programs, cities and counties don't have to create syringe exchange programs if they don't think they need one. Under SB 308/HB 856, public health workers, outreach workers, faith based organizations have the option to use the most effective and least expensive means necessary to prevent HIV and outreach to injection drug users. Reduced HIV means the money saved in state health care costs, and with no investment, syringe exchange will yield high returns.