Winning Syringe Access in New Jersey

In 2003, the Drug Policy Alliance created the Campaign for a Healthier New Jersey to push for expanded access to syringes through over-the-counter pharmacy sales and the creation of syringe access programs. At the time, the state was experiencing some of the highest rates of HIV infections in the country, thanks in large part to its unenlightened policies that banned both of these simple, life-saving measures. Not only were these misguided policies destroying lives, they were costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

In December of 2006, the campaign achieved its first major victory when then-Governor Corzine signed the Blood-Borne Disease Harm Reduction Act, allowing for the establishment of up to six pilot syringe access programs. To date, these programs have been a resounding and unqualified success—they have enrolled more than 10,000 participants and served as a bridge to drug treatment and other critical social and medical services.

A second campaign victory came in January 2012 when Governor Chris Christie built on these disease prevention efforts by signing a bill that provides for the sale of up to ten syringes in pharmacies without a prescription, as long as the sale is accompanied by a pamphlet advising safe disposal information.

The campaign’s most recent major victory came in August 2016, when Governor Christie signed legislation to make permanent the sterile syringe access programs that were originally created as pilot programs in 2006 under the Blood-Borne Disease Harm Reduction Act, and allow for new programs. Governor Christie simultaneously directed the New Jersey Commissioner of Health to invest $200,000 in the existing syringe access programs for the purchase of syringes and related supplies. This victory is the culmination of more than a decade of effective advocacy by our coalition partners who see first-hand the life-saving impact syringe access programs have on the citizens of New Jersey.

The Campaign for a Healthier New Jersey continues to work on measures designed to expand access to sterile syringes and increase government support and funding for these critical and life-saving interventions.