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JFAC gets an update on Idaho's needle exchange investigation

The Idaho State Flag hanging inside the Statehouse Rotunda.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Idaho's capitol rotunda.

An investigation into Idaho’s soon-to-be defunct needle exchange program has found significant gaps between how the law was interpreted and lawmakers’ intent when drafting it.

The Idaho Legislature created the state’s needle exchange program in 2019 as a way to reduce IV drug use, stem the spread of HIV and other diseases among drug users, as well as first responders’ exposure to dirty needles.

The nine programs receiving state grants were also required to offer substance abuse counseling and overdose prevention education, among others.

But Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's Monica Young, who ran the state's inspection, said some providers interpreted the law to include "evidence-based harm reduction" techniques instead of a simple needle exchange.

In February, police raided one of the needle exchange providers, the Idaho Harm Reduction Project. They said they found illegal drug paraphernalia.

Young told the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee Tuesday that the law lacked specific definitions for what kinds of supplies could be purchased.

“So that left both the division of public health staff managing the program and the syringe services providers themselves questioning themselves which supplies were appropriate to purchase, to possess and to get reimbursed by the department with department funds for,” Young said.

Some of the providers had poor internal management practices, according to Young, like submitting invoices without a receipt.

The state legislature repealed its needle exchange law in response to February’s raid.

Young said the Idaho Harm Reduction Project has already closed, and the remaining programs in the state will shut down by June 30.

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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