Legislation would expand access to opioid care in New Jersey

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Bicameral legislation introduced Oct. 9 would expand access to Harm Reduction Centers throughout New Jersey.

Harm Reduction Centers provide sterile syringes and supplies to drug users. They also provide screening for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; screening Hepatitis C; treatment and pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis services; naloxone and overdose prevention education; and resources for critical services such as HIV care.

In addition, they provide connections to housing, counseling, support groups, and essential health services such as medication for opioid-use disorder, substance use disorder treatment, and prenatal care.

New Jersey made its state syringe-access program permanent in 2016, but there are few centers statewide.

The bill would remove regulations that often prevent the establishment of Harm Reduction Centers.

“The current battle against COVID makes Harm Reduction expansion even more urgent, as we are facing the pandemic on top of the existing overdose crisis, rising Hepatitis C infections, and the ongoing HIV Epidemic,” Axel Torres Marrero, Hyacinth AIDS Foundation Senior Director of Public Policy and Legal Services, said.

Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) introduced the bill.

According to studies, drug users with access to Harm Reduction Centers are five times more likely to stop chaotic- substance use and 50 percent less likely to acquire Hepatitis C or HIV.

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