A bill passed by the Missouri House this month awaiting Senate confirmation would allow health clinics to provide free hypodermic needles to drug users. The bill would exempt healthcare professionals from legal action for distributing drug paraphernalia.
Lawmakers are hoping to prevent the spread of hepatitis C, HIV, and other diseases when drug addicts are sharing dirty needles.
Austin Chitwood is a recovering heroine addict who's been sober for 64 days. Chitwood is living in Hannibal's Harvest Outreach, a house to get people back on their feet after legal, addictive, or financial issues. He says access to clean needles could prevent disease and save lives
"From my experience, it didn't matter if I had one dirty needle or 30 clean needles," Chitwood said. "I was going to use whichever needle was around me."
Palymra Police Chief Eddie Bogue said the bill isn't a good idea.
"Any time you give a person that's addicted any type of tool, the chances of them being rehabilitated by having a clean needle as opposed to a dirty needle doesn't make any sense," said Bogue.
James Beardsley, another Harvest Outreach resident, contracted Hepatitis C due to 52 years of IV heroin use. Beardsley said the programs to cure these diseases pose a huge financial burden on the state.
"I just recently went through the Harvoni program to cure my Hepatitis C and that program is $100,000 that the state has to pay rather than just giving needles."
Bogue said that he doesn't believe drug users will take advantage of the opportunity.
"They would be paranoid that the drug investigators would be watching them leave the store or wherever they obtain the needles from," said Bogue.
While Bogue said his department doesn't have the resources to monitor hospitals and other areas, possessing drug paraphernalia is still a class A misdemeanor in Missouri if the addict has been previously found guilty of drug possession.