Maine Senate passes life-saving syringe exchange bill unanimously

The Maine Senate unanimously passed a syringe exchange bill Monday that would provide critical harm reduction services to over 10,000 Mainers with substance use disorder.

Sponsored by Sen. Linda Sanborn (D-Gorham), LD 1689 establishes public funding for a network of hypodermic needle exchange sites that could also offer testing for diseases often transmitted by needles, such as HIV, AIDS, and hepatitis C. These sites have been shown to decrease mortality among those with substance use disorder, according to a report from the Maine Coalition for Sensible Drug Policy.

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The bill now goes before the state House for a vote.

In order to sufficiently fund existing sites and expand to other at-risk communities, the program will require $1.7 million in funding. The Appropriation and Financial Affairs Committee has been meeting to solidify the state budget and direct surplus funds to various bills.

Advocates worry that if funding is not ear-marked for syringe exchange then Mainers struggling with substance use will continue to be deprived of these critical life-saving services.

“Dollar for dollar, there are few better investments that Maine could make to meaningfully address the opioid crisis,” said Kenney Miller, executive director of the Health Equity Alliance.

“If fully funded,” he continued, “LD 1689 could help bring services to thousands of more people struggling with substance use issues that currently lack access to such programming, saving hundreds of lives and reducing the terrible tide of hepatitis C that has been sweeping across Maine.”

(Top photo: A demonstration at the statehouse in support of a compassionate approach to Maine’s opioid epidemic)

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