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The Pennsylvania Legislature needs to pass HB 1245, legislation that would legalize syringe services programs across the Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania families and communities are being devastated by the loss of loved ones. Opioid overdose deaths are entirely preventable, yet we lost more than 5,100 of our neighbors to drug overdose in Pennsylvania in 2022.

The number of overdoses in Pennsylvania, as well as the rate of increase, has long been among the highest in the nation, yet we are one of only about ten states that do not allow statewide syringe services programs (SSPs). Syringe services programs are a critically important tool in the fight to reduce overdose deaths and prevent the spread of injection-related diseases like HIV and hepatitis C. The programs also serve as distribution points of naloxone (Narcan), and they provide overdose reversal trainings to communities. With only two legal SSPs in Pennsylvania, most of the state is left uncovered or reliant on the few unofficial programs we have, which are under-resourced.

Syringe services programs benefit everyone. They not only provide caring centers where people can access social services and treatment but also

  • decrease reliance on emergency services.
  • dramatically reduce the spread of bloodborne diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV.
  • decrease public needle trash.
  • reduce healthcare costs in local municipalities.
  • increase success rates of drug treatment and housing programs.

An estimated 85% of Pennsylvanians who meet the criteria for having a substance use disorder and need drug treatment do not receive it. Making treatment more accessible is critical, and research shows that new users of SSPs are both five times more likely to enter drug treatment and about three times more likely to stop using drugs than those who don’t use the programs. Legalizing SSPs would provide more effective paths to successful, long-term treatment, and it would save lives.

The overdose crisis affects communities across our commonwealth, crossing boundaries of city, town, race, age, economic status, and gender. Drug overdoses are a public health crisis. We have seen time and time again that drug war policies and criminalizing harm reduction strategies have not resulted in reduced rates of overdose death or drug use — in fact, they have led to the opposite.

Passing HB 1245 should be an easy, commonsense decision. It’s a long-overdue step forward in preventing the spread of HIV and other communicable diseases, helping people with substance use disorders access the services and treatment they need, and saving lives.

All Pennsylvanians deserve access to life-saving interventions and care. We strongly urge members of the House Judiciary Committee to vote YES on HB1245. It’s time to join the majority of other states in the nation by legalizing syringe services programs.