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Bill Would Allow Needle Exchange Programs Across Florida

Florida could soon allow sterile needle exchanges across the state.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are about 300 needle exchange programs across the U.S. in 39 states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.  Needle exchanges allow people to exchange used needles for sterile ones, and have long been a public health tool to reduce exposure to blood-borne diseases.

Currently, Miami Dade County is the only county in Florida with a needle exchange program to reduce the spread of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis.

House Bill 171, The Infectious Disease Elimination Act (IDEA), would allow hospitals, medical schools, substance abuse treatment centers and nonprofits to operate needle exchange programs. It would also allow needle exchanges to distribute naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug.

Counties and cities are allowed to ban needle exchange programs under the proposed bill. Two Central Florida lawmakers are among the sponsors of the bill: Republican Representative Rene Plasencia of Brevard County sponsored the bill, and Democrat Representative Anna Eskamani of Orange County is a cosponsor.

The bill was filed January 4, and so far does not have a corresponding bill in the Florida Senate.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.