CARSON CITY — Two men affected respectively with HIV and hepatitis C joined health advocates Wednesday in backing a bill that could result in needle exchange programs for Nevada drug addicts.
Not one person testified at the Assembly committee hearing against Senate Bill 410, which was approved in the Senate 21-0 on April 22.
The bill, introduced by Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, would remove hypodermic needles from the list of medical items that could not be sold or distributed without a prescription. The bill also would allow county health agencies to establish programs for the distribution and disposal of needles.
Now 37 states have syringe exchange programs and Parks said no state has rescinded its law allowing these programs.
No action was taken on AB410 during a hearing in the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday, although the bill likely will be approved before the Legislature adjourns June 3.
“These programs have proven around the country to have great benefits,” said Parks.
One man who gave his name as “Troy” said hepatitis “has beaten me down” and that drug addicts would prefer to use clean needles if they are available. He offered to spread the word in the drug world about the availability of clean needles.
A representative for Northern Nevada Hopes, a program that works with addicts, said it is prepared to distribute needles to addicts.
Jennifer Howell, a Washoe County Health District employee, said lifetime care costs of the typical hepatitis patient run $500,000 and that the disease can be prevented with a $1 needle.
She said that typically the people who provide the needles become friendly with addicts who sometimes later decide to come in for treatment for their addictions.
Assemblyman Andy Eisen, D-Las Vegas, said studies have shown needle exchange programs do not lead to an increase in drug addiction.
He complimented Parks for a bill that shows “positive regard for Nevadans and not judging them for decisions that they have made.
Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson, D-North Las Vegas, questioned whether Clark County health organizations backed the bill. Parks said they did, although they did not testify at the hearing. No police lobbyists testified either.
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