Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – A Missouri bill would make it legal for organizations to provide drug users with free needles.

The Safe Syringe Access bill is moving to the House of Representatives after being passed by the Committee on Urban Issues this week, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

Health care institutions registered with the Department of Health and Senior Services would be allowed to distribute hypodermic needles or syringes without violating drug paraphernalia laws, according to the bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Holly Rehder.

Providing needles to drug users for free “works on multiple levels,” said David Stoecker, a recovering addict and the director of nonprofit Better Life in Recovery.

“If you look at the incidents of HIV and hepatitis C, unfortunately, we have increasing numbers of people that are testing positive,” Stoecker said. “We are going to see a huge reduction in those numbers whenever we have a place people can bring in used syringes and get fresh.”

He said that having a needle exchange program will increase the likelihood addicts will one day seek treatment because they’ve found a place where people care about their health and offer information regarding treatment.

“To have someone say, ‘We care about you. We want you to be safe. We want you to be healthy. … And if you ever decide you need help with anything come back here and talk to us,”’ Stoecker said. “Then, when they have that narrow window when they want help, they know where to get it. We are able to reach that hard-to-reach population.”

(© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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