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Syringe Services Programs Take Center Stage in Harrisburg

October 26, 2021

Pennsylvania is one of a minority of U.S. states that do not permit syringe services programs to help reduce overdose deaths and guide people to community resources.

Tomorrow, advocates from across the commonwealth are gathering in Harrisburg to raise awareness about these programs and to call for their legalization.

While some communities—Philadelphia and Pittsburgh—have permitted them, syringe services programs are still considered illegal in Pennsylvania. Local officials face roadblocks to establish these programs without statewide authorization, advocates say.

“We are in the midst of an overdose crisis and syringe services programs are a key tool to address this crisis.” Brooke Feldman, co-founder of the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Network, said in a statement. “Every time a person goes to a syringe services program it is one less chance they will die from an overdose or contract HIV or hepatitis C and one more chance they will get into drug treatment or get connected to other support services.”

These community-based health programs provide access to clean syringes and other medical supplies, disposal of syringes, referrals to drug treatment and other social services, and testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that:

  • Sterile injection equipment can reduce the risk of acquiring and transmitting infections and prevent outbreaks
  • Syringe services programs are associated with an estimated 50 percent reduction in HIV and hepatitis C incidence
  • The programs connect patients to essential health services, including testing and medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder

HAP and other statewide groups support changes to Pennsylvania’s drug paraphernalia laws that would permit these critical public health programs, helping to reduce the spread of infectious diseases and to direct patients to available community resources.

HAP supports Pennsylvania’s hospitals as they work to address the opioid epidemic in their communities. Through its Opioid Learning Action Network, HAP convened the state’s hospitals and other behavioral health specialists to identify and share promising practices to increase the number of patients entering evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder and to reduce overdose deaths.

For more information, contact Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president, regulatory advocacy.