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Tennessee Bill Would Allow For Needle Exchange Program For Addicts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( - Few bills on Tennessee's capitol hill are actually presented as saving lives, but that's how one measure passed this session with overwhelming support. The bill authorizes statewide needle exchange programs that come with other services designed to treat those who inject themselves with drugs.

“It’s a rare circumstance where I can look at you and say 'this bill is going to save people's lives,’ but this bill will save people's lives and save the taxpayers literally tens of millions of dollars a year,” says Dr. Steve Dickerson (R – Nashville).

Dr. Dickerson is a Nashville anesthesiologist who doubles as a Republican state senator. He says the bill saves lives and money, when you think of the hundreds of thousands of dollars cost for treating addicts who share needles.

“And they do not have access to clean needles, but they are desperate individual so they will take a needle and inject it. The guy next to him will use it and then on down the line,” says Dr. Dickerson. “If you have a needle exchange program, which is a difficult thing for a lot of conservatives to wrap their head around… all the state does is authorize the state to go out and do this.”

He's showing his passion both politically and medically for his successful bill, which will authorize needle exchange programs administered by non-profit groups, who, along with giving addicts clean needles after one use, will offer treatment, counseling, and other social services as part as part of the deal.

“What you see with the needle exchange is sort of the bait, as it were, to draw these folks in once they get exposed to the social services. However, you see a decrease in HIV, decrease in Hepatitis, and decrease IV drug use… shown study after study.”

Many of the details are still being written by the State Department of Health. Non-profits like Nashville Cares in the state capitol city are possible groups to administer the program.

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