1st of its kind in NH: Bill signed creating syringe swapping program
CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill into law Friday morning that would enable the Department of Health and Human Services to work with health centers and other organizations to set up syringe services programs in the state.
“I just think it’s great, not only are we finally talking about it but we are really doing something about it,” Sununu said. “Putting a viable and concerted effort to a needle exchange program that I have no doubt that is going to save lives in the state of New Hampshire.”
Syringe service programs are different than needle exchange programs according to New Futures Senior Vice President and Policy Director Michelle Merritt. Needle exchange is just that. A needle for a needle. Syringe service programs or syringe access programs are a bit more comprehensive.
“It provides a pathway to treatment for individuals when they decide they are ready,” Merritt says. The program also provides “testing of needles so individuals know if they’ve contracted a communicable disease, a referral out to an appropriate health treatment if they need it. And other community based resources for individuals struggling with addiction.”
The other part of this bill is decriminalizing residual amounts in syringes for those organizations who are part of the syringe services program. That ensures they cannot be prosecuted for possession of trace amounts of illegal drugs.
Former State House Representative Joe Hannon, who lost re-election last November by just 53 votes, was an integral part of Senate Bill 234.
“A lot of people think that this is something that would cause more needles to be out there enable more people to use drugs. But we know from all the literature in the last many years that that doesn’t happen. This is predominantly a health bill. This can keep people from contracting HIV and Hepatitis C.”
New Futures, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for health and wellness for Granite Staters through policy changes has been working to pass a law like this for the past two years.