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HOT TOPICS: Drug and Alcohol Treatment  Heroin

Obama Hits Back at House Bill Banning Needle Exchanges in DC

An appropriations bill would bar funding of needle swaps even when “effective and appropriate.”

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Cutting HIV and Hep C rates.
Photo via thinkstockphotos

By Dirk Hanson

07/14/11

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After weeks of putting the smack down on medical marijuana, the White House has complained that a D.C. appropriations bill working its way toward a vote on the House floor would bar funding for needle exchange programs in the District of Columbia. The Obama administration argued that funding for needle exchanges, which allow heroin addicts and other injecting drug users to swap used needles for clean ones, is allowed in other regions. Administration officials did not say whether President Obama would veto the appropriations bill because of the limits on needle exchanges. “This is contrary to current practice and the Administration’s policy to allow funds to be used in locations where local authorities deem needle exchange programs to be effective and appropriate,” the White House said in a Statement of Administration Policy.

In addition to cutting off federal (but not local) funds for needle exchanges, the bill would also “ban the city from spending its own money to provide abortions to low-income women,” according to the Washington Post. Needle exchange programs for injecting drug users have been shown to cut back on rates of HIV, as well as the far more infectious Hepatitis C. There can also be substantial savings in health costs. Jennifer Adams, a public health nurse at a needle exchange facility in Ontario, said that handing out a clean needle kit costs about $2, but to treat someone for a year with HIV can cost $150,000 or more.

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