Florida Lawmakers Eyeing More Needle Exchange Programs

Last Updated: April 11, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

What began as a pilot needle exchange program in Miami-Dade could spread across Florida. Since its inception in 2016, state health workers have seen more people diagnosed with HIV and hepatitis getting the treatment that they need.

Needle exchange programs help stop the spread of deadly diseases throughout Florida’s population. That is reason enough to get on board. Some naysayers think needle exchange is an endorsement of illicit drug use, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Not only do these programs help prevent more people from contracting preventable diseases, they save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in care.  Needle exchange can help more people ward off disease until they can enter Florida drug rehab.

South Florida Saw More New HIV Cases in 2015 Than Any Other State

Florida did not just have more new HIV cases than any other state in 2015, South Florida on its own ranked higher. If that sounds disturbing, it should be. It is also one reason why Miami-Dade implemented the first needle exchange program in the region the following year.

The Palm Beach Sun-Sentinel says Florida state legislators agreed to a five-year test period. One of the stipulations was that no public funds could support the program. At present, it is funded by donations and private grants.

Unfortunately, even with the success of needle exchange, the program faces some blowback. Abstinence-only supporters claim that clean needles encourage illegal drug use. Program officials understand that this and similar programs help keep diseases from spreading, which places not only the lives of drug users but also public health at the forefront. Users can only receive clean needles by exchanging dirty ones. They also have access to communication and education, as well as other resources.

Narcan Becomes Part of the Needle Exchange Program

As ironic as it might seem, addicts in South Florida may have better access to the overdose death preventing drug, Narcan, than police officers and other emergency workers. The Miami Herald says that as long as an Overtown addict has training, he or she can walk away with Narcan.

Needle drug addicts can visit one of the nondescript IDEA Exchange tan trailers and get an HIV test, education about drug use and how to quit, clean needles and other sterile implements, and Narcan, which can stop an opioid overdose death in a matter of minutes.

So far, 240 drug users have used the IDEA Exchange program and 70 program participants have learned how to use Narcan nasal spray. If one dose does not work, another can be administered in two to three minutes, as research associate Carlos Padron tells the Herald.

Needle Exchange Is Not Addiction Treatment

Needle exchange is not designed to prevent drug use. Program opponents seem to miss the point when railing against it. This and programs like it address the spread of deadly disease and the mounting costs of caring for people who contract bloodborne illnesses, which are concerns for every Florida resident.  After all, no one can know if they will one day be affected by a disease that could have been prevented days, weeks, or even years earlier with one clean needle.

Maybe in time, needle exchange programs will no longer be necessary. For now, though, Florida drug rehab can help you do your part by leaving illicit drug use behind. If you are suffering from addiction to heroin or any other drug, contact us to learn how we can help. We will work with you to design the right treatment program to help you kick your habit for good.