A controversial bill relating to IV drug use has gone through committee with a “do pass” recommendation…
If passed, HB 2320 will legalize Needle Exchange Programs in North Dakota.
Yesterday, we heard from a professional health care provider about why she thinks this would be a step in the right direction for the state.
Tonight in our top story, Emily Medalen joins us live after speaking with state legislators on the topic.
This bill has caused much debate among lawmakers, medical professionals, and constituents in the state.
Needle Exchange Programs are services that allow injecting drug users to safely dispose of used needles in exchange for clean ones, without law enforcement getting involved.
In doing so, the drug user gets the option of referral to treatment – but only if they choose to.
One argument from the opposing side is that passing this bill condones the use of illegal drugs.
A big question surrounding the bill is – where does the money come from to fund Needle Exchange?
Many have spoken out against the bill that would allow Needle Exchange Programs.
Some say it will encourage drug use in the state.
“There is always that concern that we might be contributing to somebody’s use,” said Senator Howard Anderson, District 8.
The Chairman of the ND House Human Services Committee says that’s not the case.
“Certainly, that is a common belief that we’re helping drug users.
That’s not the case because the program does have those components in it to refer them, and statistics have shown that thats not occurring. That it doesn’t increase drug use,” said Rep. Robin Weisz, Chairman, House Human Services Committee.
You might be wondering, why would the state step in and provide drug users with clean needles without turning them over to law enforcement?
“The main point is to reduce the infection level of Hepatitis C, in particular, and HIV,” said Weisz.
While the goal is lower infection rates, Weisz says the bill can do something else as well—save the state money.
“Most states have seen a reduction in drug use by those that are using. And, of course, a dramatic reduction in Hepatitis C and HIV, which costs the state a lof of money. Hepatitis treatment can cost $80,000 just for the drugs,” said Weisz.
Right now, state-funded programs like medicare pay for treatment of these types of diseases.
If Needle Exchange Programs can lower disease levels, Weisz says that money can be used elsewhere in the long term.
He added that taxpayers will not fund the programs if the bill passes.
“The money they need, they would have to raise. Either from private donations, or from some other source. But they wouldn’t be able to use state general fund money to set up a program,” said Weisz.
Senator Anderson feels that passing the bill would have a positive long-term effect on communities in the state.
“By preventing transmission of these diseases, we save all of us money, and we save all of us heartache, who might have a relative, friend, somebody else, who ends up with a disease because of their IV drug use,” said Anderson.
We spoke with local law enforcement this afternoon and they stated that they had no opinion on the matter, and that they see it as a medical issue.