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New law legalizes needle exchange programs

Syringe Access Program.jpg
Posted at 4:04 PM, May 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-31 18:01:16-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — There's a new law in Arizona to reduce overdoses and even the transmission of diseases.

Governor Doug Ducey signed S.B. 1250 on Monday, legalizing needle exchange programs.

The Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF) tells KGUN 9 it’s going to help volunteer-based programs like theirs come out of the shadows.

“This was the right thing to do. This is going to make our community stronger and healthier and safer,” said Dr. Ravi Grivois-Shah.

He's the CEO of SAAF and he said the data is there to back up the success of programs like theirs.

“We know that programs like the syringe access program reduce HIV transmissions by about 50% among those who use needles, and, you know, so we're we're part of the solution here with this program,” he explained.

Beau Finan is one of the staff leads for the Syringe Access Program.

“A lot of the folks who come in here are really happy and grateful that not only that we're providing the service but that we're treating them like people with dignity,” they said.

Finan said a majority of the people coming in are facing challenges like mental health issues, financial instability, and substance use.

SAAP said the biggest misconception is that the program will draw people deeper into a struggle with using.

“More participants who engage in syringe access programs will go into treatment," said Dr. Grivois-Shah.

Program organizers emphasize it’s a no judgment zone.

“If they're coming here, it's because they actively want to be healthier and protect themselves and their loved ones. So I think that's commendable,” said Finan.

The new law will take effect three months after the legislative session ends.