Local Recovering Drug Addicts React to "Safe Syringe Access Bill - KOAM TV 7

Local Recovering Drug Addicts React to "Safe Syringe Access Bill"

Joplin, MO -

Missouri lawmakers debate a bill that would give illegal drug users easier access to syringes.  It's called the "Safe Syringe Access Bill."  It's a crime right now for an organization to give a needle to someone, "reasonably knowing" it'll be used illegally.  But this bill would allow syringes to be given out to illegal drug users only from healthcare institutions registered with the state.

50-year-old Richard Copher is on the mend.

"I'm a recovering addict of drug using," says Copher.

Copher used meth for 25 years, and says he has been clean for two months while going to the Ozark Center's New Directions treatment center.

We asked him what has really helped him.

"Talking to somebody about your addiction," says Copher.

"We stand alone.  But when we're together, we build each other up here," says Bucky Martin.

43-year-old Martin says he has been clean of meth for two months after using it for 23 years.  He and Copher are against the idea of letting certain healthcare facilities giving syringes to drug addicts.

"You might as well give them a gun," says Martin.

The proposal is part of a bill sponsored by State Representative Holly Rehder from Sikeston, Missouri.  Supporters say giving out needles would increase the likelihood of drug addicts one day seeking treatment because they've found a place where people care about their health.

"It's just a crutch for us to keep using," says Martin.

But Martin does see a catch-22.

"The only benefit of it would be the disease part, the hepatitis and AIDS would not spread," says Martin.

A 1997 study published in the Lancet showed almost a six percent decrease in the number of people with a disease in U.S. cities that also have syringe sharing programs.

"There's a desire to reduce transmission of diseases by reusing needles," says Captain Trevor Duncan with the Joplin Police Department.  "Then the other issue you have is, if you're now handing out new needles to people, you're helping enable the drug epidemic."

"Don't use drugs.  Yes.  That would be it," says Martin.

...It's Martin and Copher's plan for success now in their lives.  They will concentrate on those plans, while state legislators continue their debate.

This bill is moving to Missouri's House of Representatives after passing through the Committee on Urban Issues.

The Joplin Police Department says it's not unusual for people to complain about used needles found in parks or along sidewalks.  This bill does not call for a drug addict to exchange their used needle for a new one; they would simply receive a new syringe.


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