Thursday, April 10, 2014

Opinion: Maryland Needle Exchange Program

The following is a guest opinion article by Angel McLaughlin. The WashCo Chronicle and its editor are not responsible for its content. If you would like to contribute to the WashCo Chronicle, please contact on the Facebook Page.

The senate in the state of Maryland is currently working on a bill that would allow drug users to obtain
more than one needle at a time in a new addendum to the current needle exchange program that is
currently being used. Currently, users may trade each needle for another clean needle but only one,
with the changing in requirements they will be allowed to obtain more than one needle for each they
turn in.

The current needle for needle exchange program in Baltimore City has been quite successful on reducing
the transmission of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B/C. With the expansion of the program they are looking to
even further cut down on the rate of transmission of these terminal diseases. The diseases are a public
safety risk and the needle exchange program will help reduce that. In addition to exchanging needles
the program also provides education on drug use and the transmission of these diseases and referrals to
substance abuse programs.
Many people in the state are up in arms about the fact that this is even being brought up as a possible
program to fund. They must not realize that this program has in fact been up and running since 1994
and the state is just looking to expand its funding and availability.

Many statements have been made about how the state should use this funding for rehabilitation
programs and detoxification centers. However, they do not realize that the state of Maryland’s COMAR
regulations are that any person admitted into a substance use treatment center of any kind has to be
treated for these diseases whether they are being treated by that facility or referred out. There are
over 29,000 people infected or diagnosed with HIV in Baltimore City alone. So if the state of Maryland
is using its money to treat these diseases instead of putting that money toward rehabilitation wouldn’t
it make sense for them to spend money on preventing the transmission of these diseases in the first
place? Each syringe costs 13 cents and the state is looking to expand the budget for the program an
additional $19,500 in the next fiscal year. The average rehabilitation cost of a person in the state of
Maryland is upwards of $700 a day for inpatient rehabilitation. With the $19,500 budget expansion next
year the state of Maryland could only afford to treat a maximum of 27 people for one day, as opposed
to giving out 150,000 needles.

There has also been a lot of talk about why people that have legitimate illnesses that require them to
use syringes and why they have to pay for theirs when drug addicts get free ones. I don’t see any reason
why you would not be able to go down to Baltimore to trade in your used diabetes needles for clean
ones. I simply think that it is a matter of getting past ones pride to go stand in line with the drug addicts
and get clean needles.

Even though we may not all see how this is going to beneficial or fair, sometimes we have to step
outside of our own personal beliefs and thoughts to realize what is really going on in our state and why
things are done the way they are. We can’t complain if we are ill informed or clinging to our personal
beliefs without actual knowledge.

*All information and statistics retrieved from Dept. Health and Mental Hygiene for the State of
Maryland , COMAR & CBS WJZ13 Baltimore.