KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Missouri House of Representatives approved a needle-exchange program Thursday that would allow state-approved health clinics to give free needles to drug users.
The next step for the measure is the Missouri Senate. Supporters of the measure are facing criticism from people who claim that providing free needles will encourage and enable drug abuse.
Right now, needle exchange programs are not legal in Missouri but some clinics provide free needles to drug users because of statistics that free needles will stop the spread of serious diseases.
Missouri State Rep. Holly Rehder said free needle programs do not increase drug use and have a community health benefit.
"Studies done have shown a 20 percent decrease in the transfer of AIDS, HIV even more percentage, so it's harm-reduction. You're lowering the instances of spreading HIV and Hep-C," said Rehder.
People getting free needles also get information about medical check-ups and programs to help them stop using drugs. Rehder believes that when drug users are ready to get medical exams or stop using drugs, they will know where to go for help.