|Health Committee Advances Legislative Package to Expand Harm Reduction Services
Trenton – Recognizing the practical success of harm reduction protocols in curbing drug use in New Jersey communities, and recognizing that each individual’s struggle is slightly different from everyone else’s, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today advanced a package of bills pushed by Senator Joe Vitale to expand access to harm reduction services in New Jersey.
The bills passed out of committee today included:
S-3491 Vitale/Huttle: Permits any person to administer or dispense opioid antidotes.
S-3493 Vitale/Huttle: Permits expungement of possession or distribution of hypodermic syringe or needle offense in cases of previous expungement; repeals criminal offense for possession of a syringe.
S-1039 Gopal/Huttle: Authorizes pharmacists to dispense HIV prophylaxis without an individual prescription under certain circumstances; mandates prescription benefits coverage.
S-3009 Vitale/Gopal/Gill/Huttle: Permits establishment of additional harm reduction programs to distribute clean syringes and provide support services to injection drug users.
S-3065: Vitale/Huttle: Permits syringes and related supplies to be exchanged via postal mail.
“The principles of harm reduction are simple. We must accept that there is drug use in our communities. Some ways of using drugs are more dangerous than other ways. We need to meet people where they are, rather than forcing on them some preconceived notion of what their life should look like,” said Senator Vitale (D- Middlesex), chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.
“We need people who use drugs to inform these programs based on their experience and what has worked for them, rather than pretending we know exactly how they should run, never having walked a moment in their shoes. Harm reduction programs are compassion first, without judgement.”
“In order to more effectively confront drug use in our state, we have to wake up to the fact that harm reduction policies are effective, humane ways to begin to better tackle the problem of substance abuse and to minimize the spread of disease,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth).
“Clean syringes, for example, have shown to be widely effective in preventing the spread of HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne pathogens, while harm reduction programs, such as access to naloxone, SUD treatment, and peer support are proven methods of reducing overdoses without increasing drug abuse.”
“S-3009 will establish vital programs that will aid in the management and care of those battling addiction,” said Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex / Passaic). “These measures will not only help to save lives but provide support with the dignity everyone should expect when seeking treatment and receiving care.”