Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Live saving policy well within reach

The Texas Legislature adjourned Monday evening without passing SB 188, which would have allowed local options for setting up disease prevention programs including syringe exchange. While the final hurdle was not passed, many legislators let us know they believe it would have had the votes to pass the House floor if it had been called up for a debate and vote.

Senate Bill 188 made Texas History this year by:
  • making it farther through the legislative process than any similar piece of legislation filed since 1993;
  • inspiring the largest bi-partisan coalition of House and Senate bill authors and supporters ever for this issue; and
So what now?

The Texas Legislature will not meet again for a regular session until January, 2011. However, 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.

What are your thoughts for next steps to educate Texans about the importance of allowing syringe exchange programs in Texas? We would appreciate hearing your feedback. Feel free to leave a public comment or email your thoughts to