APPROVAL: Bills passed by the New Jersey Senate and Assembly to increase access to syringes
January 10, 2022 – Today, New Jersey legislators passed sweeping law sponsored by Senator Joseph Vitale and Rep. Valerie Vainieri-Huttle to expand access to syringe services, the essential public health tool in ending the overdose crisis are.
The Syringe Access Act (S-3009 / A-4847) will expand access to essential syringe access programs (SAP) across the state by lifting the restrictive city ordinance requirement and aligning SAPs with other public health services. The Syringe Convictions Act (S-3493 / A-5458) will decriminalize syringe possession and allow previous convictions to be overturned.
“This is a great public health benefit. The overdose crisis raged higher than ever before during the COVID pandemic, with reported overdose deaths higher than ever, ”said Senator Joseph Vitale. “Harm reduction centers provide vital services to people with addictions, and this bill will significantly increase their footprint so that everyone in need can have access to these life-saving resources.”
“The truth is, countless lives are saved here in New Jersey every year,” said MP Valerie Vainieri Huttle. “Damage reduction is about leading with empathy and finding resources, not punishments. We must do all we can to support and expand these ministries to reach all of our communities. “
According to the CDC, people who have access to syringe service programs are less likely to die from a fatal overdose, five times more likely to start a drug treatment program, three times more likely to stop messy drug use, and 50 percent less likely to have HIV and hepatitis C than people without access.
“This bill is groundbreaking as it removes the biggest barrier to opening new syringe access programs in the state,” said Jenna Mellor, executive director of the New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition. “Harm reduction is the best tool we have to end the overdose crisis, and this legislation will ensure that residents in every corner of New Jersey have access to this life-saving care. New Jersey is losing more residents to overdose deaths than ever before, so we cannot continue doing business as usual. We applaud Senator Vitale and Assemblywoman Huttle for campaigning for this bill to expand access to syringe exchange, save the Oasis Drop-In Center in Atlantic City, and recognize the dignity and humanity of those who use drugs. “
“The South Jersey AIDS Alliance welcomes the courageous act of the New Jersey Legislature in protecting and increasing access to syringes in New Jersey. Today’s vote ensures health care for some of New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents, ”said Carol Harney, CEO of the South Jersey AIDS Alliance, which operates the Oasis Drop-In Center in Atlantic City. “Harm Reduction Programs have been shown to reduce the incidence rate of HIV / AIDS and other bloodborne pathogens, bridging the gap between drug treatment and unbiased treatment. I commend our lawmakers for trusting science and not stigma. “
“This is a joyful moment for people who use drugs throughout our state and a reminder that we all deserve access to dignified care. With these harm reduction laws passed today, our elected leaders have chosen the health and dignity of all of us – their constituents – over stigma and discrimination, ”said Caitlin O’Neill, director of Harm Reduction Services for the New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition. “The expansion of harm reduction centers and the decriminalization of syringes in New Jersey will save many lives, and it will strengthen the inherent worth of many people and humanity. This is a step towards New Jersey ending the overdose crisis, repairing the damage of the racist drug war, and finally building the systems of care that will keep us all alive and safer – no matter where we lay our heads. Now continue towards implementation! “
“This legislation allows for the expansion of syringe access services that is urgently needed. New Jersey has been hit hard by the overdose crisis, and the expansion of life-saving services will ensure we can deliver services to those most in need, where data suggests a need, “said Axel Torres Marrero, senior director of public policy and prevention at the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation. “Public health will lead the way in service delivery. We are very grateful to our sponsors, Senators Vitale, Gopal and Gill and the members of the Huttle, Quijana and Verrelli Congregation. “
“A big thank you to New Jersey lawmakers for advocating public health over narrow-mindedness and enacting law that will improve health outcomes and save the lives of our neighbors. Everyone deserves access to evidence-based health services, ”said Jennifer Oliva, professor and director of the Center for Health and Pharmaceutical Law at Seton Hall University School of Law.
“The passage of this bill is a tremendous achievement for the public health of New Jersey. Our harm reduction advocates across the state now have improved access to our most vulnerable communities, ”said Shannon Preston, director of HIV community services at the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey. “This is not just about syringe access points, it is about improving the health and wellbeing of entire communities through improved access to health care, overdose prevention, support services and education.”
“The Syringe Access Act increases the ability for customers to have easier access to services and resources in their communities,” said Martha Chavis, executive director and CEO of Camden Area Health Education Center.
“This is a public health approach to the overdose crisis,” said Marleina Ubel, policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). “Harm reduction services, such as those offered by syringe exchanges, hit people where they are and help them not only stay alive but thrive. We commend the sponsors and supporters of the bill who made this legislation possible and we urge Governor Murphy to sign it. “
The New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition promotes harm reduction by distributing naloxone, fentanyl testing steps, and other harm reduction tools through peer-led programs; advocates widening access to syringes and reforming fair drug policy; and organized to build power among people directly harmed by overdose and the war on drugs.
To request Safer Use Naloxone (brand name) and supplies, shipping free and confidential throughout New Jersey, call 1-877-4NARCAN or visit www.nextdistro.org/newjersey
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