Health officials propose syringe services program

RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — Virginia Department of Health officials are proposing a new law to give people suffering from drug addiction access to free syringes. If passed, it would be referred to as the Syringe Services Program.

State health officials say drug abuse is the top health issue facing Virginia.  They are concerned about the potential for outbreaks of HIV and hepatitis C that can be caused by needle sharing.

“The programs build relationships and serve people who use injection drugs and are seeking help,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Laurie Forlano said.

“There was a study done last year by CDC which named eight counties in mostly far southwest Virginia that are deemed quite vulnerable to an HIV or hepatitis C outbreak linked to injection drug use,” Dr. Laurie Forlano said.

Some opponents of the proposal say it’s counterproductive.

“It is a very bad idea. You are giving an addict a reason to shoot up,” said Sterling Harrison.

Health officials say providing access to syringes can help lead people down a path to recovery.

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“They will be afforded many opportunities to help themselves. They can be connected to treatment for HIV and hepatitis C or other kinds of viral diseases. They can be connected to hepatitis prevention, treatment and testing vaccination. They can be linked to social services and addiction recovery treatment services to help them get the help they really need,” said Dr. Laurie Forlano.

According to the Centers for Disease Control eight counties are already vulnerable to outbreaks in Virginia.A proposal put forth last year had a price tag of $76,296 to provide syringe services to 100 people for about six months.

A proposal put forth last year had a price tag of $76,296 to provide syringe services to 100 people for about six months.

Dr. Forlano says she believes they can implement the program at a minimal cost.

Funding would come from mostly non-governmental groups and federal funding sources.

Forlano says states including Maryland already have similar programs.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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