Georgia Governor signs HB 217, legalizing needle exchange programs

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Continuing the series of health reforms becoming law in Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp has signed House Bill 217, amending laws regarding “transactions in drug related objects” to change regulations involving employees of syringe service programs.

HB 217 was written to change existing laws in order to make employees of syringe service programs “not subject to certain offenses relating to hypodermic syringes and needles.”

The bill originally passed the House chamber in February and the Senate in March. Now the bill is signed into law.

What it does

It also authorizes the Georgia Department of Public Health to create new rules and regulations, allowing a licensed “pharmacist, a pharmacy intern or pharmacy extern…a practitioner licensed to dispense dangerous drugs, or a person employed by or acting as an agent of a registered syrince services program,” to sell, give away, exchange or rent, and “otherwise distribute” hypodermic syringes or needles for “legitimate medical purposes.”

What this means

In layman’s terms, Georgia’s state government has now enabled pharmacy workers, doctors and other licensed professionals to work more freely towards drug rehabilitation activities by authorizing them to exchange or sell clean needles and related supplies.

Specifically, syringe services programs are now defined by the state as “an organization which provides substance abuse and harm reduction counseling, education, and referral servcies for substance abuse disorder treatment…” as well as other needle use-related services involving treatment and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis prevention and care services, according to the new law.

Going forward

Once this law takes effect, the DPH is also authorized to create rules and regulations for “supervising the ac tivities of syringe services programs, including provisions for the registration of such programs,” allowing businesses to form or register as needle exchange programs and sell or provide clean needles to users as well as offer rehabilitation services and counseling.

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