Pubdate: Sun, 14 Dec 2008
Source: San Antonio Express-News (TX)
Copyright: 2008 San Antonio Express-News


The simple truth about needle exchange programs is that they save
lives and save money. Numerous research studies and practical
experience with such programs around the nation demonstrate the savings.

The same studies and practical experience also refute the primary
rationale for opposing needle exchange programs - the notion that they
increase intravenous drug abuse.

That's the buzz saw advocates of safe, cost-effective needle exchange
ran into during the last legislative session. By a margin of 22-7, the
Texas Senate passed a measure that would have given local health
departments the authority to create programs aimed at reducing the
spread of HIV and hepatitis.

Former Rep. Dianne Delisi, a Republican from Temple, opposed the bill
in the House, however. But rather than simply voting against it, she
abused her position as chairwoman of the Public Health Committee by
refusing to allow it to come to a vote.

After 18 years in the House, Delisi resigned her seat in July. The
same bipartisan group of lawmakers who pushed the legislation two
years ago - Sen. Robert Deuell, R-Greenville, Sen. Leticia Van de
Putte, D-San Antonio, and Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio -
plans to reintroduce similar measures in the upcoming session.

There can be little doubt that given the opportunity for floor votes
in the Senateand House, Texas will join the 49 other states in making
needle exchange programs legal.

In a 2007 letter to Gov. Rick Perry, Deuell - a medical doctor -
spelled out a compassionate and fiscally conservative case for
supporting needle exchange. "About half of new HIV infections and 40
percent of hepatitis C infections come, directly or indirectly, from
injection drug use," he wrote. "A new case of HIV will cost about
$385,000 over the patients' lifetime and Medicaid will pick up the tab
for much of this."

Along with protecting law enforcement and health care workers who
frequently come into physical contact with the IV drug using
community, the case for needle exchange is overwhelming. This time, a
measure that saves lives and taxpayer dollars deserves a simple up or
down vote in the Legislature. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake