Syringe Service Program Laws

Across the country, a rise in the misuse of injectable opioids and heroin means more people are at higher risk of contracting infectious diseases from using contaminated syringes. Sharing syringes provides a direct route of transmission for blood-borne diseases such as the hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Symptoms may not appear for years, meaning individuals who inject drugs may share needles and unknowingly spread diseases to others. Using a sterile syringe for every injection can reduce the risk of acquiring and transmitting diseases, but legal barriers often hinder people from accessing clean needles. Expanding policies that authorize the possession, legal sales, and exchange of sterile syringes can greatly reduce rates of infection.

Syringe Service Programs (SSPs) provide sterile injection equipment, as well as prevention and health products and services to people who inject drugs. SSPs are safe, effective and cost-effective ways to reduce transmission of HIV and HCV. They can also significantly decrease the number of improperly discarded syringes. Despite evidence-informed recommendations from the CDC, SSP authorization in the United States remains incomplete and uneven. Some states have laws that explicitly authorize SSPs, while others have a patchwork of pre-existing laws that leads to the perception that SSPs are illegal.

This is a cross-sectional dataset that presents state-level statutes and regulations that impact SSPs in effect as of August 1, 2019. The map identifies the method of authorization for SSPs, requirements for the establishment of SSPs, the types of services provided directly and by referral, drug paraphernalia possession laws, and whether an SSP is operating in the jurisdiction.

This publication was created as part of the Promoting Health and Cost Control in States (PHACCS) Initiative in collaboration with the Trust for America’s Health and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Click here for more information on PHACCS.

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