PRINCETON, WV (WVNS) — A bill that would change the licensure process of needle exchange and harm reduction programs in West Virginia is now at a standstill.
SB 334 would require all new and existing syringe exchange programs to get licensed from the Office for Health Facility Licensure and Certification. Critics saw the law would have restricted access to clean needles. The law was set to go into place July 9th, but is being put on hold after the ACLU West Virginia Chapters filed a lawsuit saying the law is unconstitutional.
Matthew Huffman Division Director of Substance Abuse Disorders at Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center, said without the restraining order on the bill, needle exchange and harm reduction programs would cease to exist. Which in turn he said will be deadly for West Virginia.
“In these programs it’s not just coming and we throw needles out to you, it’s an actual exchange. You have to give the others back. And it keeps them off the streets so it’s keeping your kids safe. It’s stopping the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C,” said Huffman.
Huffman said these programs aren’t just handing out needles and condoning illicit drug use. Huffman said the first step in lowering not only drug usage but the number of HIV positive and Hepatitis B and C patients is through education. With the continuing of the programs, they can educate and help treat and heal.