Press Release  | 05/10/2013

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to Sign Two Life-saving Public Health Bills Today at 2:15 p.m.

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SB 13-208 Decriminalizes Possession of Syringes for Participants of Syringe Access Programs; SB 13-14 Expands Access to Life Saving Overdose Antidote Naloxone

Treatment Providers, Public Health Advocates, and Families Who Have Lost Loved Ones to Overdose Voice Support

DENVER — Today, Gov. John Hickenlooper will sign into law two life-saving public health bills. The signing will take place at 2:15 p.m. in the Governor’s Office at the State Capitol. Several family members who lost loved ones to an overdose, as well as public health organizations and advocates will attend the signing ceremony.

SB 208, sponsored by Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver), ensures that Colorado syringe access program participants are immune from paraphernalia laws criminalizing possession of syringes. This bill finishes the work of authorizing syringe access programs in Colorado by ensuring that program participants can carry clean syringes and return contaminated syringes for proper disposal without fear of ticketing or arrest. SB 208 is expected to encourage proper sharps disposal in the cities of Boulder, Grand Junction, and Fort Collins, all of which operate their own syringe access programs. Immunity for syringe possession is fairly widespread across the nation with 27 jurisdictions employing some form of immunity and 14 jurisdictions employing full decriminalization of syringe possession.

SB 14, sponsored by Sen. Irene Aguilar (D-Denver), will expand access to Naloxone—an overdose reversal medication—by providing protection against civil and criminal liability for medical professionals who prescribe the drug to third parties, and for lay people who subsequently administer the drug. Naloxone distribution is part of comprehensive overdose prevention efforts in Colorado, which currently has the nation’s second highest rate of prescription abuse.

“These victories reveal a promising public health approach to drug policy within the Colorado legislature,” says Art Way of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “Our elected officials are taken notice that a punitive criminal justice – enforcement only –  approach actually hinders efforts to minimize the personal and societal harms associated with drug use.”

The passage of these two bills marks the culmination of a successful legislative session for public health, harm reduction, and drug policy reform in Colorado. “Plainly stated, these bills will save lives and limit the spread of disease,” said Lisa Raville of the Harm Reduction Action Center. “Naloxone distribution and immunity for participants of syringe access programs are critical to Colorado’s comprehensive efforts to establish drug policy which prioritizes the lives of users and the health of our communities.”

Primary supporters were the Harm Reduction Action Center, Drug Policy Alliance.  Community endorsers and sponsors of the bills include Colorado Medical Society, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Providers’ Association, Colorado Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, Colorado Psychiatric Society, Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council, Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials, Boulder County Public Health Department, Arapahoe House, Mental Health America of Colorado, Colorado Organizations Responding to AIDS, Colorado AIDS Project, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, American Friends Service Committee, and Students for a Sensible Drug Policy.

Contact: Art Way 720-288-6924 or Tony Newman  646-335-5384

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