In a near-unanimous, bipartisan vote, the Florida House of Representatives passed CS/HB 171, “Infectious Disease Elimination Programs” last night. If approved by the Florida Senate, and signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, CS/HB 171 would allow for the statewide expansion of Miami-Dade County’s successful pilot syringe exchange program.
"There's now a scientific and political consensus that drug use is best treated as a health issue," said Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “To save lives, Florida needs to follow the evidence and follow the lead of other U.S. states where syringe access programs have significantly reduced rates of overdose deaths and preventable diseases."
Dr. Hansel Tookes, Assistant Professor at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, and the director of the Miami IDEA syringe exchange, cheered the vote, saying, “I hope the Senate acts quickly to send this legislation to the Governor’s desk. The results in Miami have been clear: syringe exchange programs save lives. Period.” Tookes continued, “As Florida continues to grapple with the deadly opioid crisis, the rest of the state should have the same opportunity as Miami-Dade to be proactive in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, getting dirty syringes off the streets, and helping people who use drugs get lifesaving treatments.”
The Miami IDEA Exchange was authorized by the Florida Legislature in the 2016 session, and opened its doors in December of that year. Since its inception, IDEA has taken tens of thousands of used syringes out of circulation in Miami, placed hundreds of people who use drugs in rehabilitation programs, placed dozens of individuals in HIV/AIDS treatment programs, and is credited with almost singlehandedly stemming an HIV outbreak in Miami-Dade County in 2018.
Syringe access programs have a proven, decades-long track record of preventing the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. These programs also provide people who inject drugs with referrals to drug treatment, social services, and primary health care. Approximately half the states in the U.S. have either no syringe exchange program (14 states) or only have programs available in one or two cities in the entire state (12 states).