Law Enforcement FAQs on Legal Syringe Exchange Programs in North Carolina


What are syringe exchange programs?

Syringe exchange programs collect used syringes from people who inject drugs and exchange them for sterile syringes and access to social services, including substance addiction treatment.

When did syringe exchange programs become legal in North Carolina?

Syringe exchange programs became legal in North Carolina on July 11, 2016, the day Governor McCrory signed House Bill 972 into law (G.S. 90-113.27). House Bill 972 also regulates the release of law enforcement body camera footage.

What services are syringe exchange programs required to provide?

Syringe exchange programs operating in North Carolina are required to provide the following:

(1) Disposal of used needles and hypodermic syringes

(2) Needles, hypodermic syringes, and other injection supplies at no cost and in quantities sufficient to ensure that needles, hypodermic syringes, and other injection supplies are not shared or reused

(3) Reasonable and adequate security of program sites, equipment, and personnel. (Written plans for security shall be provided to the police and sheriff's offices with jurisdiction in the program location and shall be updated annually)

(4) Educational materials on all of the following: Overdose prevention; the prevention of HIV, AIDS, and viral hepatitis transmission; drug abuse prevention; treatment for mental illness, including treatment referrals; treatment for substance abuse, including referrals for medication assisted treatment

(5) Access to naloxone kits or referrals to programs that provide access to naloxone

(6) For each individual requesting services, personal consultations from a program employee or volunteer concerning mental health or addiction treatment as appropriate

Programs should also provide written verification to all participants that they have received  syringes and other injection supplies  from the exchange. This can be in the form of a letter or a program identification card.

Who can start a syringe exchange program in NC?

Any governmental or nongovernmental organization “that promotes scientifically proven ways of mitigating health risks associated with drug use and other high risk behaviors” can start a syringe exchange program. This includes, but is not limited to harm reduction organizations, health departments, AIDS Service Organizations and community based organizations (CBOs).

Where will the syringe exchange programs be located?

The location of each program will vary depending on the geographic area and resources of the host organization, but there are several common locations for syringe exchanges. Also, the exact location will be stated in the security plan that each exchange is required to provide to law enforcement prior to implementation.

1)    Fixed site exchanges – exchange is located at a fixed site such as a storefront, local nonprofit, church, or public health department

2)    Mobile exchange – exchange is run out of a vehicle that travels to various locations to deliver syringes and other services

3)    Peer based or home delivery exchange – syringes and other services are delivered to people’s homes or other agreed upon locations

4)    Integrated exchange – exchange is integrated into the existing structure of an organization such as a pharmacy, a drug treatment center, an AIDS service organization, etc.

What is the role of law enforcement in syringe exchange programs

Under H972, no employee, volunteer or participant of the syringe exchange can be charged with possession of syringes or other injection supplies, or with residual amounts of controlled substances in them, obtained from or returned to a syringe exchange. Syringe exchange programs will supply a card, letter, or other documentation to each participant stating that they obtained their syringes from the exchange.

Also, organizations that intend to start a syringe exchange program must provide a copy of the security plan to local law enforcement prior to implementation and update it every 12 months thereafter.

What information will be contained in the security plan?

This will depend on the size, location, and resources of the program, but the plan should detail how the exchange will secure syringes and others supplies and take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of employees, volunteers, and clients.

How can I find out more information about syringe exchange programs?

For more information contact Jesse Bennett at at the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition.