Congress has been battling the stigma that needle exchange programs increase drug abuse. This false assumption has been the leading argument for not funding these critical programs. After decades of research and monitoring of programs already in place, Congress has proof of the effectiveness of needle exchange programs in reducing the risk and spread of HIV without increasing drug use. This proof supported the opening of needle exchange programs in South Florida in 2016.
Armed with new data, Congress lifted the ban on funding needle exchange programs in December of 2015. Federal funding is now available for operating the programs, but not to buy needles. Considering the needles are the least expensive part of operating such programs, this is a huge step forward. This change does not offer more funding. It means that each state who receives funding may use that money to help support the clinics who run a syringe exchange.
What Does This Mean for Needle Exchange Programs in South Florida?
Now needle exchange programs can apply for federal aid to fund local programs. This will help pay for workers and counselors who meet with those struggling with addiction face-to-face. They find it hard to trust in anything. They have seen the worst of mankind. Repeat exposure to counselors and workers who care about them proves to be effective at helping with recovery.
In Dayton, Ohio 64 addicts have been referred to recovery programs since using needle exchange during its first year of operation. The program served 282 people and a staggering 23% committed to recovery programs. This shows that repeat contact with those struggling with addiction increases the chance of recovery.
Why Are Needle Exchange Programs Necessary?
Needle exchange programs give people an opportunity to exchange a used needle for a new needle. By providing clean needles, communities reduce the risk of sharing needles. Shared needles cause increasing infection rates of HIV and Hepatitis C. According to the DC Department of Health, through the needle exchange programs Washington DC saw a reduction of needle-cause HIV cases by 80% in 2011. In 2015, the program prevented 120 new cases of infection, which saved the government and estimated 44 million dollars of health care in a two-year period.
- The government can save millions of dollars in health care by preventing the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.
- Communities can reduce the spread of infectious disease by providing a safe place to get clean needles.
- Addicts can receive the care and attention needed to consider recovery options.
Why are Needle Exchange Programs in South Florida Necessary?
In 2011, Florida ranked 3rd in the United States for number of new HIV cases reported. The same year, Florida ranked 2nd for number of child AIDS cases in the nation. South Florida has seen the highest number of these cases (27,035 people infected) in Miami-Dade County as of 2014. Broward County ranked 2nd with 17,632 people infected.
Needle exchange programs in South Florida will help decrease new infections while providing counseling to those in need. This view is supported by the Infectious Disease Elimination Act which was passed on March 23, 2016. Governor Rick Scott of Florida signed a 5-year needle exchange pilot program for Miami-Dade County.
Needle Exchange Programs in South Florida Opens
Florida opened its first needle exchange program in Miami nine months later. Fittingly, the exchange program opening coincided with World Aids Day on December 1, 2016. This is fitting because the port city reports a rate of HIV infections three times higher than the rest of the country during 2015 as it has for several years. With new needle exchange programs in South Florida, many people hope those rates will decline in the new year.
Needle Exchange Programs in South Florida Offers More than Clean Needles
Needle exchange programs in South Florida are doing more than handing out clean needles to those addicted to opioids. The program backed by the University of Miami is educating participants on safe injection techniques and treatment options. The programs also offer immunizations and testing for infectious diseases. For those who test positive for diseases like Hepatitis or HIV, treatment is available in health clinics. The goal is to reduce the spread of disease while offering treatment options.
Continuing Comprehensive Care in Miami for High Risk Populations
Outreach and education is an ongoing effort in Miami for over 35 years. The University of Miami Health System works with scientists, psychologists, and public health experts to offer the best care possible to those at risk for infectious diseases. They have implemented several outreach programs to reach adolescents, low-income mothers, and other at-risk populations in the area. Building community relationships and rapid testing has nearly erased mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Miami’s Struggle with Opioid Overdose Continues
Although the new needle exchange programs in South Florida is needed progress, Miami needs more help. There have been 140 suspected overdoses in 2016 thus far. Fire-rescue stations have used Narcan almost 1,000 times in the first nine months of 2016 to save the lives of those overdosing on opioids.
But this report of Narcan use by Fire-Rescue may not show the whole story. Florida passed legislature in 2016 to allow Narcan to be purchased in pharmacies without a prescription. This law makes the overdose prevention drug more available so friends and family can save the lives of loved ones. While a needed change, it makes it impossible to know how many lives are being saved by the drug without implementing new reporting measures.
Regardless of metrics, many in the health care profession hope increased access to Narcan and needle exchange programs in South Florida will contribute to a decrease in overdose deaths and spread of infectious diseases.
Finding Needle Exchange Programs in South Florida and Across America
Google a needle exchange program plus the name of your state and county to find the nearest location. If your county does not offer a program, visit Nasen (North American Syringe Exchange Network). This website directory lists 36 U.S. states plus the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as having at least one Syringe Exchange Location.
A faster way to find help is call Aion Recovery’s Helpline at 888-811-2879. Addiction specialists can help you find needle exchange programs in South Florida and across America. Information on recovery treatment options is also available. Calls are confidential so call today.