Governor signs McDonald bill to expand access to syringe exchange services

Wed, 04/06/2022 - 2:45pm

AUGUSTA — A proposal sponsored by Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Stonington, that will help prevent the spread of preventable infections was recently signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills.

As amended, LD 1909 allows the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to increase the number of sterile hypodermic apparatuses that may be provided by a syringe exchange program to Mainers affected by substance use disorder.

Under current state regulations, syringe exchange programs are only allowed to distribute one sterile syringe for every syringe returned.

“2021 was the deadliest year in Maine’s opioid epidemic. This crisis requires a sharper focus on harm reduction and treatment. We can and must do better, for the people struggling with addiction, for their families, children and the people who love them, and for our state and communities,” said McDonald. “Expanding access to sterile supplies through syringe service programs will save taxpayer dollars, prevent needless suffering and ultimately save lives.”

According to the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Maine had the second highest rate of acute hepatitis B and tenth highest rate of hepatitis C in the nation in 2017.

Research shows that syringe exchange programs are effective in reducing the spread of HIV and hepatitis C infections and also save taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be spent treating and combatting the spread of these preventable diseases, a news release stated.

“The opposite of addiction is connection, and syringe service programs often serve as the first place where someone using drugs connects with harm reduction services, recovery support and treatment,” said McDonald. “These programs build relationships with local medical providers and support services, putting them in a unique position to connect people to the help they need when they are ready. These connections can and do lead to long-term recovery.”

McDonald, a member of the Marine Resources Committee, is serving her second term in the Maine House. She represents the Cranberry Isles, Deer Isle, Frenchboro, Isle au Haut, North Haven, Southwest Harbor, Stonington, Swan’s Island, Tremont, Vinalhaven and Marshall Island Township.