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New Needle Exchange Program May Come to Hillsborough County

Written by Jonathan Strum

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The needle exchange program would allow people to exchange old needles for new ones, which helps reduce rates of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.

Florida’s Hillsborough County has some of the highest rates of opioid-related issues in the U.S., but a new needle exchange program may help relieve the crisis. Following the success of similar programs in Miami-Dade County and other parts of the country, Hillsborough County is ready to bring resources to addicted individuals while raising awareness of recovery options.

There were 4,279 opioid-related deaths in Florida in 2017, and the state has the third-highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the country. With these rates in mind, Florida lawmakers passed a bill that would allow individual counties to create their own needle exchange programs.

Needle Exchange Law in Florida

The Florida opioid crisis spurred state legislators into action, leading to the proposal and eventual passing of SB 366 last year. The bill allows individual county commissions in Florida to create needle exchange programs. Before this, only Miami-Dade County had a needle exchange service as part of the IDEA Exchange pilot program to see whether it would be effective in Florida.

Though counties are not allowed any funding from the government for these exchanges, the University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital have agreed to sponsor the Hillsborough County program if it is passed. Though the commission is currently on board, county staff must draft a proposed ordinance and hold a public hearing before voting for approval.

How the Needle Exchange Program Will Work

The clean needle exchange program will allow people to exchange used needles for brand-new ones. Following the same layout as Miami’s IDEA Exchange pilot program, the process provides a valuable opportunity for staff to provide health screenings, medical treatment, recovery resources, and free Narcan to help prevent overdoses.

Sharing or reusing needles can lead to skin infections and diseases like HIV and hepatitis C. Needle exchange programs work to prevent these conditions, which reduces the burden on hospitals and allows people who use IV drugs to avoid life-threatening health issues caused by old needles. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that these programs are effective for prevention and can help lead to recovery.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, The Recovery Village Palm Beach is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment programs that can work well for your needs.

View Sources

LiveStories. “Hillsborough County Death Statistics.” 2017. Accessed February 27, 2020.

Florida Department of Children and Families. “Patterns and Trends of the Opioid Epidemic in Florida.” 2018. Accessed February 27, 2020.

Chang, Daniel. “Florida has the third-highest rate of new HIV diagnoses. The CDC wants to fix that.” Miami Herald, June 17, 2019. Accessed February 27, 2020.

The Florida Senate. “CS/CS/SB 366: Infectious Disease Elimination Programs.” 2019. Accessed February 27, 2020. 

Mack, Sammy. “Legislative Proposal Could Jumpstart Needle Exchanges In Florida.” WLRN, March 20, 2019. Accessed February 27, 2020. 

Dawson, Anastasia. “Hillsborough takes first steps toward needle exchange pilot program.” Tampa Bay Times, January 8, 2020. Accessed February 27, 2020. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Syringe Services Programs (SSPs) Fact Sheet.” May 23, 2019. Accessed February 27, 2020.