SPRINGDALE, OH (FOX19) - A bill passed by the Ohio House would let communities set up programs for drug users to exchange dirty needles for clean syringes.
Recent data from the Ohio Department of Health shows that heroin is the second leading drug that results in overdoses.
Backers say the bipartisan bill helps address public health concerns linked to Ohio's growing heroin problem by slowing the spread of hepatitis C, HIV and other infections that can be passed among intravenous drug users on a dirty syringe.
Some conservative Republicans argue it would enable drug users instead of addressing the root problems.
The House passed the legislation Wednesday, sending it to the Senate. This is already up and running in 28 other states, and now more communities in Ohio are trying to decide if it's right for them.
The City of Springdale voted five to two in favor of starting a needle-exchange program, referring to it as an "Infectious Disease Prevention Program."
"Heroin has become a drug of choice for many because it's affordable and readily available," said Springdale Health Commissioner Cammie Mitrione.
She says they're in the process of starting a "mobile syringe exchange unit" in a local business district. It may even offer counseling and testing as well.
"I think really it's an opportunity to build a relationship with people that apparently have a drug problem," said Mitrione.
Rose Ann Breezley's son died earlier this year from a heroin overdose. She says heroin is an epidemic, and this isn't stopping the drug use, but it's something that can help innocent people.
"What if a child picks up one of these needles from someone who has hepatitis or AIDS, that child's life is ruined," Breezley told FOX19.
Mitrione says if the Ohio bill passes, it will make it easier for bigger cities to start their own programs with less hoops to jump through.
"It is not the answer to all the problems. It is one piece of the puzzle, and we all have to start somewhere," she said.
Dr. Judith Feinberg who's been instrumental in helping Springdale with the program says heroin addiction is as strong as they come, and this isn't only about a needle exchange, but keeping these people disease-free for when they do decide to get help.
More communities across Ohio are learning more about the program. As for Springdale, if everything goes as planned they hope to have their mobile unit up and running by the end of 2013.
Read more about addiction and recovery here: http://addictionandrecovery4u.com/
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