Friday, March 11, 2011

Senator Deuell poised to sponsor HB 117

In a letter distributed to every member of the Texas House of Representatives, along with a copy of "The Conservative Case for Needle Exchange," Senator Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) reaffirms his support for passing syringe exchange legislation. Doctor Deuell's commitment to disease prevention outreach programs has remained strong and steady, as a physician, as a conservative, and especially as a Christian. Senator Deuell has stood by his conviction that every life is worth saving, and that every individual deserves compassion.

Senator Deuell's initial feelings of trepidation toward the subject of syringe exchange were quickly dispelled when presented with the scientific facts and figures in support of these lifesaving interventions. In his letter he states:

"If you had asked me just a few years ago how I felt about allowing drug addicts to trade their dirty needles for clean ones, I likely would have said I opposed it. But once I looked at the studies, I saw that these programs work. And they do not increase drug use. On the contrary, these programs often help get drug addicts into rehabilitation where they can be helped.

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."

Senator Deuell has passed syringe exchange legislation in the Senate in 2007 and 2009 (23-6 Senators voted in favor of SB 188) and is ready to do so again if the House approves HB 117. HB 117 would provide counties with a population of over 300,000 the option of authorizing syringe exchange programs. There are many private funding options for syringe exchange services which would allow the state and counties to avoid spending public money while authorizing programs that would save the state the cost of treating additional cases of HIV and blood borne infections. It's a win-win situation. And on the face of things this bill appears to align perfectly with the conservative platform: it aims to preserve and save lives, it is a local control measure, and it would save the state and the taxpayer millions of valuable dollars by sparing counties and public hospitals the burden of treating additional infectious disease among the uninsured by preventing it in the first place.

If Texas legislators are sincere about implementing successful and sound measures to save the state money then there is absolutely no good reason for not supporting House Bill 117. There is no rational excuse for Public Health Committee Chair, Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, not scheduling a hearing. And there is no sense in keeping Texas from having access to the second most effective HIV intervention, syringe exchange.

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