State Prepares To Regulate New Needle Exchange Programs
For many years, California’s counties, and sometimes its cities, have decided whether or not to approve the operation of clean needle and syringe exchange programs in their jurisdictions. Soon though, we may have a statewide policy as the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) will issue proposed regulations regarding needle exchange programs and inviting public comment on the regulations.
Before approving these programs, the county supervisors, or city council members, had to declare a health emergency resulting from the existence of HIV infections in their counties or cities. Then, as a second step, they had to grant permission for the needle exchange program to be established in their jurisdiction.
The problem with this process was that it was extremely political and the subject of needle exchange programs was, and still is, very controversial. As a result, those opposed to the programs could mount campaigns to pressure elected officials not to approve needle exchange programs in their areas.
Thus, often the decision on whether or not to approve needle exchange programs was a political decision, not a public health decision. Sometimes approval of needle exchange programs were denied in areas that desperately needed them.
However, last year the legislature passed legislation (AB 604) making it possible for the California Department of Public Health, Office of AIDS, to approve applications from qualified California agencies to provide syringe exchange services.
The decision makers at the Office of AIDS will be much further removed from the political pressures faced by local elected officials. This should improve the chances that decisions on the approval of needle exchange programs will be based on medical necessity, not political expediency.
Once the proposed regulations are published, the public will be invited to comment on them. There will be a 40-day period during which people may submit comments. The CDPH has a list of people and organizations who are interested in this subject. When the proposed regulations are published, the people and organizations on the list will be invited to comment on them. At the end of the comment period the department will consider the comments and make any necessary changes before publishing the final regulations.
People or organizations who would like to be added to the list may contact:
Please note, the new regulations will not affect existing needle exchange programs that have already been authorized at the local level. These programs will not need to be certified by the Office of AIDS. They are already permitted to operate under existing law. These new regulations will allow the state Office of AIDS to accept applications from programs in jurisdictions that have not previously moved to authorize syringe exchange programs.
Boyce Hinman California Communities United Institute Join our mailing list; http://bit.ly/yZbxKC