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Rep. Rene Plasencia Pushes to Expand Miami's Syringe Exchange Pilot Program Throughout the State

Florida's lawmakers seek to expand the syringe exchange program established in Miami Dade County all over the State in an effort to prevent the transmission of blood-borne illnesses, reduce deaths, and abate the opioid epidemic. According to Rep. Rene Plasencia, this legislation will have a great impact on Florida's public health because it will benefit not only drug users seeking help, but also the community in which blood-borne illnesses are rising.

The syringe exchange program, proposed on the House Bill 579, aims to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis. Furthermore, by replicating this program throughout Florida, both local and state government will have substantial savings on costs related to treatment to bloodborne illnesses associated with intravenous drug use. The syringe exchange pilot program at the University of Miami has been successful within the community; for example, it has provided close to 45,000 clean and unused syringes, and properly disposed over 50,000.

"With the Opioid Crisis running rampant in our communities, it is essential that we begin to implement projects that not only seek to decrease the use of opioids, but also mitigate the harm caused to communities. Locally, Orange Country has the 9th highest incidence of HIV infections. This program will dramatically decrease the transmission of HIV throughout our communities," said Rep. Plasencia, Prime Sponsor of the House Bill 579.

Plasencia also expressed the initiative will achieve a reduction in blood-borne diseases by increasing the number of drug users entering treatment; reducing needle stick injuries among first responders; dropping overdose deaths by providing education on prevention and safe injection practices; providing referrals to medical, mental health, and social services; and offering tools such as counseling, condoms, and vaccinations to prevent the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C, and STDs.

These services will be available in those entities eligible to administer this program, for example: licensed hospitals and health care clinics, accredited medical schools, substance abuse treatment programs, and HIV/AIDS service organizations. Each entity wishing to participate in this program must apply to the Department of Health.

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