On Oct. 26, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds released her priorities to address the state’s opioid crisis. While she highlighted a number of important strategies to improve prevention and treatment for opioid use disorders, she left out a critical component to solving the crisis: syringe service programs.

Syringe exchanges are community-based programs that provide a number of services, including free sterile syringes, syringe disposal and access to medical and addiction treatment. For people who use drugs, access to clean syringes is life-saving. These programs significantly decrease transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.

Some Iowans may believe that syringe exchanges promote drug use, but research shows the opposite is true. A study published by the Centers for Disease Control tells us that people who participate in a syringe service program are five times more likely to enter treatment programs compared to people who never access a syringe exchange. These programs provide a critical opportunity to engage people who are experiencing addiction and support them in navigating the complex process of accessing treatment.

Thirty-six states have now implemented syringe exchange programs, including our neighbors Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. Additionally, on Dec. 19, Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer spoke in support of syringe exchange programs.

If Gov. Reynolds wishes to improve treatment access, she would be wise to follow suit and support syringe exchange legalization. - Nealy Wooldridge, Sioux City

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