Bexar County Eyeing 'Needle Exchange' Program for Addicts

San Antonio and Bexar County are moving to establish a 'needle exchange program' for drug addicts who would be provided with clean needles, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The County flirted with the idea a decade ago, but then District Attorney Susan Reed vowed to prosecute anybody who participated, so the idea was scrapped.

But County Judge Nelson Wolff says current District Attorney Nico LaHood and both of the candidates to succeed LaHood, who lost in the March primary, are now on board.

He says it would save taxpayer money, by cutting down on public expenditures on health care for addicts, most of whom are on Medicaid.

"It costs something like $60,000 a year to treat HIV, it takes something like $300,000 to treat hepititis 'C' and 'B,'" he said.

Those diseases are frequently spread by people using infected needles to inject drugs.  And medical officials saying with the opioid addiction crisis and other heroin addiction increasing, those numbers will go up at well.

Wolff says many cities have experienced old needles scattered on sidewalks and in playground as addicts use them to inject drugs and then drop them, knowing that a new, clean needle will be available.  He says the way to make sure that doesn't happen here is to make the needle exchange 'mobile.'

"That way you can go out to where they are, and also encourage them to get into a program."

Police and social workers know what places are frequently used to drug addicts to inject heroin and opioids, and a rash of fires this past winter is believed to be caused by drug users 'squatting' in vacant homes to use drugs, and setting fires inside to keep warm.

"You say, why would you do that," Wolff says to people who don't like the idea of their tax dollars going to provide free stuff to junkies, welfare recipients, and addicts.

"In fact, programs have shown that when you do this, drug use actually goes down, because you are trying to reach out and help the person."

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