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Syringe Access – Legislative Wins and Funding Opportunities

In early April, the Maryland legislature passed the Opioid Associated Disease Prevention Outreach Programs bill (H.B.468 / S.B.97), broadening the legalization of syringe service programs (SSPs) across the entire state. The bill, if signed, would allow local health departments and community-based organizations to start syringe exchange programs in their jurisdictions. Previously, needle exchange was limited to Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, though in practice only Baltimore was running an exchange. The passages of these bills come just two months after Maryland Delegate Dan Morhaim, M.D., introduced four harm reduction-focused drug policy bills which would go much further than legalizing syringe exchanges, including establishing supervised consumption facilities and decriminalizing small amounts of all drugs for personal consumption.

The Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition, instrumental in advocating for this expansion over the past two years, announced the victory on their Facebook page. AIDS United congratulates them on their fierce advocacy and the expansion of syringe access across the state of Maryland.

In other news, SAMHSA recently announced a funding opportunity of roughly $1.6 million for behavioral health providers to partner with established SSPs to provide wrap around mental health, substance-use treatment, and HIV care services to people who inject drugs (PWID). The funding comes through the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund as the Minority AIDS Initiative Continuum of Care Pilot (MAI-CoC) Syringe Services Program Supplement. As a supplement to the MAI-CoC, the funding is only available to current MAI-CoC grantees and is aimed at creating linkage to care pipelines for PWID to access mental health, substance use, and HIV services by partnering with existing SSPs. With a maximum funding of $82,000 per year per program over two years, this supplement is small in contrast to the bulk of MAI-CoC funding. However, it does represent the first overt federal funding aimed specifically at SSP activities, and the linkage to care model contained within may foreshadow the direction future Health and Human Services funding may follow. AIDS United continues to urge federal agencies to consider making additional funds available to SSPs.

Posted By: AIDS United Policy Department - Friday, April 22, 2016

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