NCHRC Supports Syringe Decriminalization, Syringe Exchange and Needle Stick Prevention Efforts for Law Enforcement and First Responders
- One out of three officers nationally will receive an accidental needle-stick during their careers. 28% will get multiple sticks.
- Needle-sticks expose officers and the public to deadly diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B & C.
- Once an officer is exposed to blood-borne disease, post-exposure treatment is costly and burdensome to departments.
- It costs the state of NC $680,000 for lifetime treatment of someone with HIV and $100,000- $500,000 to treat someone with hepatitis C.
- Most needle-sticks occur during searches when the suspect, fearing reprisals for possession of a syringe, lies to the officer and denies carrying paraphernalia.
- States that have adopted needle-stick prevention laws and/or syringe exchange saw a 66% reduction in needle-sticks to officers, largely because suspects were more likely to declare syringes during a search.
- Needle-stick prevention laws and syringe exchange have no effect on drug use or crime in a given area.
- Needle-stick prevention laws and syringe exchange have been shown to reduce the incidence of HIV and hepatitis in the community.
- According to a NC study on law enforcement, results show 82% of NC officers surveyed were identified HIV as a big concerned on the job. 60% had a positive impression of needle-stick prevention laws. 62% of law enforcement agreed that they would be good for the community.
- North Carolina should support needle-stick prevention laws and syringe exchange to encourage suspects carrying syringes to be honest to officers during searches and reduce needle-sticks to law enforcement.
In 2009, Congress voted to lift a ban on federal funding of SSAPs. However, SSAPs are prevented from operating in North Carolina due to possible prosecution given that the possession and distribution of syringes is a misdemeanor offense.
A new syringe access bill was introduced in the 2011 long session of the North Carolina Legislature.
There are 5 underground SSAPs operating in NC. These programs could be considerably more effective if the legal barriers preventing their work were officially sanctioned by the State.
It is unacceptable to continue to allow law enforcement to get needlesticks when there is an effective way to reduce them by 66%.
This is a public health issue where science strongly supports policy. HIV and Hepatitis C infections continue to rise at alarming rates in the state of NC. SSAPs would curb the incidence of HIV and Hepatitis and the soaring costs caused by new disease infections.
This cost saving public health program does not cost the people of NC a cent (but will save us millions of dollars). There is federal money available to fund SSAPs in NC and multiple national organizations have offered to fund SSAPs in NC if they were to become legal.