EASTERN IOWA, Iowa (CBS2/ FOX 28) — A bill paving the way for needle exchange programs in Iowa is moving forward at the statehouse.
There are nearly 40 states that currently support needle exchange programs where substance abuse users can safely drop off and pick up free, sterilized needles. This week, legislatures approved a revised version of Senate File 127, now Senate File 500, to move forward just before the end of the legislative funnel deadline.
Supporters of the Senate bill said it could be a path to recovery for drug users and prevent diseases from spreading.
"Essentially that would change our current code which prohibits people from possessing or distributing syringes if its for an unlawful purpose. And so primarily drug use," said Tiffany Carter, Policy and Community Engagement Coordinator with the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition.
"The primary goal is to keep people alive until they're able to get the help that they need," said Melissa Walker, Deputy Director of the Area Substance Abuse Council.
The revised version of the bill calls for a pilot program that would review the needle exchange programs after five years. Only five jurisdictions would be authorized to run a needle exchange program via oversight from the Iowa Department of Public Health.
"Its a common thought and misconception that by providing sterile syringes, we're enabling drug use," said Carter. "In reality what they've seen is that, participants in these programs are five times more likely to enter a drug treatment program."
Carter said other states are using similar programs to curb the spread of diseases.
"Hepatitis C and HIV transmission is really rampant because it's so easily transferable through that equipment," said Carter.
"We find that many of the patients that come to us have other health factors such as HIV or Hepatitis that get in the way of their recovery journey," said Walker.
However, there are some agencies that currently do not support the legislation like the Iowa Police Chief' Association.
CBS2 news reached out to the association for comment but have not heard back yet.