PALM BEACH, Florida – Palm Beach County became the first county in the state of Florida to adopt an Infectious Disease Elimination Program ordinance that allows the establishment of a Syringe Exchange Program within its geographic boundaries, which will reduce disease transmission among drug users.
No county is required to set up needle exchanges – it’s an opt-in law. Palm Beach County started the process before the law was made official.
The Board of County Commissioners officially adopted the ordinance pursuant to legislation signed by Governor Ron DeSantis establishing the Infectious Disease Elimination Act (IDEA).
“Research shows that programs like these help reduce the prevalence of blood-borne diseases associated with the reuse of contaminated needles and syringes, and increases entry into substance use disorder treatment centers,” said Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay. “We are excited to be the first county in Florida to pass an ordinance that enables us to establish this type of program. This will prove to be an effective and integral component of our effort to prevent HIV/AIDS and opioid overdoses.”
The Palm Beach County Community Services Department will now begin working with community partners to further develop this initiative. It is expected that the Syringe Exchange Program will operate from one or more fixed locations and utilize mobile units to provide services in targeted areas throughout Palm Beach County.
The program is expected to offer free one-to-one exchange of clean, unused hypodermic syringes for used syringes and needles to help prevent the transmission of HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, and/or other blood-borne diseases. The program is also expected to provide a bridge to drug treatment, recovery support as well as other primary health and social services for intravenous drug users.
In 2017, there were 647 opioid-related deaths in Palm Beach County. In addition, more than 8,400 county residents are currently living with HIV with nearly one new infection occurring every day.