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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Three years after lawmakers approved a pilot needle-exchange program for Miami-Dade County, a Senate committee Tuesday unanimously approved a proposal that could lead to similar programs in other areas of the state.

The Senate Health Policy Committee supported a measure that would allow county commissions to decide whether to establish such programs, which are designed, at least in part, to help prevent the spread of HIV and other diseases by intravenous drug users.

Bill sponsor Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, said the Miami-Dade program also has had other benefits such as becoming a “roving triage and health center” for people who need tests for such things as HIV and hepatitis and who need treatment for infections. He said it has also helped reduce opioid overdoses.

“It has become a one-stop shop for that population, and it also has become a place where we can bring them in to get them exposed to the possibility of going to rehab and getting rid of this terrible addiction that they have,” Braynon said.

The Miami-Dade program was established through the University of Miami, but the bill would give decision-making authority to county commissions across the state. Counties would contract with entities such as hospitals, health clinics or medical schools to operate the programs.
State money could not be used, but counties could fund the programs.

Sen. Dennis Baxley, from Ocala, said he was cautious about the Miami-Dade program because of concerns that it could create more addiction by supporting “negative” habits.

“I just want to say that everything that has happened over this three-year journey has demonstrated a very successful program of truly building a health intervention that uses this contact point to also redirect a lot of people in a different direction, as well as (addressing) the safety hazard of dirty needles laying around the park,” Baxley said.

(©2019 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)

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