It’s taken a while- a few years, actually- but today Gov. Rick Scott signed off on a pilot program in Miami-Dade County, run by the University of Miami, which establishes a needle exchange for addicts.
Once politically unthinkable, the state’s soaring rates of IV drug use- and deaths- have slowly made the idea of providing clean needles to addicts acceptable.
Credit the track record of needle exchanges in reducing rates of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. That helps explain why the Florida Medical Association threw its considerable weight behind the pilot program, and why a Republican-led Congress has lifted the ban on using federal money for such exchanges.
Florida’s program is, however, just a pilot. And the University of Miami won’t be able to use state or local tax dollars to get it up and running and keep it going.
But in a written statement, Bill Piper, Senior Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, expressed optimism: “Hopefully this pilot syringe program is just the beginning of major changes in Florida,” he wrote.
Some neighborhoods locally might welcome that: In Prospect Park, 83-year-old Jean Thomas discovered a cache of needles in her trash last year.