REACH Lab Publishes First Policy Brief “Investing in the Safety and Health of Nebraska Communities Through the Authorization and Implementation of Syringe Services Programs”
The spread of hepatitis C (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) pose a great risk to rural and urban Nebraska communities. Between 2011 and 2015, Nebraska witnessed a 300% increase in reported hepatitis C cases. According to research done by experts at REACH, substance abuse treatment admissions for heroin and prescription opiates increased by 1407% from 2000 to 2015, and overdose deaths caused by opiates are quickly approaching the number of deaths caused by automobile accidents in the state. Researchers at REACH lab have also documented the additional threats posed by rural drug use, which tends to see higher use of methamphetamine, higher rates of injection, as well as the risky sharing of injection equipment. These trends are mirrored in areas across the United States where rural communities have been suffering from addiction, overdose, and infection exacerbated by the ongoing opioid crisis.
The threat of HCV and HIV to the health and safety of Nebraskans is urgent and devastating. However, certain public health policies have been especially effective in mitigating these risks to Nebraska communities. Experts at organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), World Health Organization (WHO), and the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmfAR), have endorsed increasing access to clean syringes and needles through syringe services programs, also known as SSPs. The CDC defines SSPs as “community-based programs that provide access to sterile needles and syringes free of cost and facilitate safe disposal of used needles and syringes.” Through decades of research, SSPs have proved to be particularly successful in preventing the spread of infectious disease, promoting entry into substance treatment programs, reducing drug use frequency, and even saving the community money.
Because of the effectiveness of SSPs and the present threat of infectious diseases in Nebraska communities, Nebraska policymakers should strongly consider authorizing and assisting in the implementation of SSPs in our state. REACH researchers outline the importance of SSPs to public health in the lab’s first policy brief “Investing in the Safety and Health of Nebraska Communities Through the Authorization and Implementation of Syringe Services Programs.” The policy brief outlines SSPs’ successes in four areas: 1) infectious disease and public health; 2) drug use and addiction; 3) crime and public safety; and 4) cost-effectiveness and cost-savings. Based on REACH lab’s research, the policy brief recommends that Nebraska join 35 other states that have authorized SSPs to operate legally. To do so—and increase access to life-saving treatment and services—Nebraska legislators should amend the state’s paraphernalia laws and further provide for regulation and oversight of such services once implemented.
- AIDSWatch, “Syringe Exchange Programs: Critical to Public Health and Public Safety,” 2014
- American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmfAR), “Public Safety, Law Enforcement, and Syringe Exchange,” 2013
- AmfAR, “Syringe Services Programs Myth v. Fact Presentation,” 2013
- HHS, “Implementation Guidance to Support Certain Components of Syringe Services Programs,” 2016
- CDC, “Program Guidance for Implementing Certain Components of Syringe Services Programs,” 2016
- CDC, “Syringe Services Programs (SSPs) Developing, Implementing, and Monitoring Programs,” 2016
- CDC, “Reducing Harms from Injecting Drug Use and Opioid Use Disorder with Syringe Services Programs” Info Sheet, 2017
- CDC, “HIV and Injection Drug Use Syringe Services Programs for HIV Prevention.” 2016
- Policy Surveillance Program, Law Atlas: Syringe Distribution Laws Map, Website
- WHO, “Policy Brief, Provision of Sterile Injecting Equipment to Reduce HIV Transmission,” 2004
- WHO, “Effectiveness of Sterile Needle and Syringe Programming in Reducing HIV-AIDS Among Injection Drug Users,” 2004
- WHO, “Guide to Starting Needle and Syringe Programmes,” 2007