Oppose S.B.607 - Substance Use Disorder Safety Act
Sign on to join the North Carolina AIDS Action Network in our opposition to S.B.607, which includes provisions that would implement harmful changes to NC's syringe exchange laws, which will have a disastrous impact on syringe exchange programs. Syringe exchange programs are vital in reducing the negative health risks associated with drug use and must be protected in our state.
To sign on to this letter as an organization, please email Christina Adeleke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear North Carolina General Assembly and Governor Cooper,
In 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly legalized syringe service programs (SSPs) on a strong bipartisan vote. Syringe service programs distribute unused sterile syringes and provide safe disposal methods for used syringes, along with providing other services including HIV and hepatitis testing and access to medical treatment. Syringe service programs have saved countless lives.
Syringe service programs have proven to be invaluable to our communities, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drug use has significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result we have also seen a rise in drug overdoses along with hepatitis C and HIV diagnoses. From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, these programs have shouldered the increased burden of overdose responses and provided services and education normally only accessible via emergency or public health departments. They also save the state money. Syringe service programs are the single most cost-effective harm reduction intervention for hepatitis C virus (HCV), saving over $360,000 in treatment costs per averted HCV case.
SB607, which seeks to heavily restrict syringe service program operations, would undo years of lifesaving work supported by bipartisan constituents and would increase the health risks associated with drug use in the community. This bill would take our state considerably backwards in the fight to reduce the negative health risks associated with drug use, would leave our state vulnerable to a potential outbreak caused by the increased rates of HCV and HIV transmission, and would lead to an increase in overdose deaths. Please oppose SB607.
SB607 Will Overburden Hospitals and Emergency Medical Response Services
The limitations and stipulations placed on syringe service programs by SB607 would lead to the closure of many syringe service programs. These programs directly assist hospitals and emergency services by distributing naloxone, the antidote to opioid overdose, to reduce overdoses and overdose-related deaths in the state. As the leading distributors of naloxone in the state, syringe service programs serve a pivotal role in reducing the number of overdose-related deaths and must be able to continue providing these lifesaving services. The removal or even the reduction of syringe service programs would lead people experiencing an overdose to seek assistance from already stretched emergency departments.
SB607 Will Deal a Heavy Blow to Rural Communities
Many western North Carolina counties have seen a spike in overdose- and/or HCV-related deaths, and syringe service programs have been able to help alleviate this burden through their services, particularly through mobile syringe exchanges. Mobile syringe exchanges extend the reach of the services provided by syringe service programs out to rural communities, which are disproportionately burdened by injection drug use. Mobile syringe exchanges also play a vital role in ensuring the health and wellness of people who use substances by providing wound care, overdose reversal education and HCV and HIV testing. In addition, mobile syringe exchanges help connect people to HCV or HIV treatment and to drug treatment if desired. Removal of mobile exchanges will effectively eliminate rural communities’ access to the lifesaving services of syringe service programs.
SB607 Will Substantially Increase the Health Risks Associated with Drug Use
Syringe service programs reduce HCV, HIV, and STI transmission by providing safer sex supplies, testing, and sterile syringes to a population often considered “unreachable.” Syringe service programs work hard to build trust with the people who utilize their services by accepting people as they are and refraining from judgment and coercion. The trust that is built often serves as a vehicle to connect people to drug treatment and other evidence-based services when they are ready. In fact, research shows that new users of syringe service programs are five times more likely to enter drug treatment and about three times more likely to stop using drugs than those who do not use the programs. Syringe service programs serve as a unique entry point for people who do not have access to healthcare or would not feel comfortable in a traditional healthcare setting to obtain access to medical or behavioral supportive services if needed. Syringe service programs also properly dispose of used syringes, severely reducing bystander transmission via needle-stick injury.
For the health of our state, please oppose SB607.
-North Carolina AIDS Action Network
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