TBN Weekly –
LARGO — Pinellas County commissioners voted unanimously Jan. 26 to approve an ordinance that allows for a countywide syringe exchange program.
The ordinance includes program definitions, requirements and operational guidelines that comply with the statewide Infectious Disease Elimination Act program. The program cannot be paid for using state, county or municipal funds, so it has to rely on grant money and donations from private sources.
The Florida Legislature approved the IDEA program in 2016 and it went into effect statewide on July 1, 2019. It authorizes counties to establish programs for sterile syringe exchange to prevent and eliminate infectious disease, including viral hepatitis, Aids and HIV.
County commissioners discussed the program on Aug. 11, 2020, and Gayle Guidash, assistant director at the county Health Department, explained the benefits of the program. However, commissioners declined to act. The consensus had been to send it back to staff for more work.
Guidash had talked about the success of a five-year pilot syringe program in Miami-Dade County to help prevent the spread of blood-borne diseases. The program, which allows a one-for-one exchange of a dirty needle for a clean one, has shown success in Miami-Dade.
The program also provides free tests for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and HCV (hepatitis C). Guidash said testing is important to help provide treatment and prevent the spread. Participants also have access to educational materials and counseling or referrals.
In addition, the program dispenses naloxone kits, and has resulted in fewer opioid deaths in Miami-Dade County. Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse an opioid Overdose