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Group violating law as it distributes needles to drug users

May 17, 2019 GMT

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — The top prosecutor in eastern Iowa’s Dubuque County said he has no immediate plans to file charges against a group that has been violating state law by distributing sterile needles to intravenous drug users.

The group Dubuque Harm Reduction has been open about its activities, sending a letter to county supervisors earlier this month that detailed the group’s services and included an offer to be a resource to the county. The nonprofit provides medical-grade clean injection supplies and offers HIV and hepatitis C testing, wound care kits and fentanyl-testing strips.


A bill legalizing such services in Iowa failed to advance during the recent legislative session.

“None of us are blind to the consequences of what is being done (without the law change), but we also recognize that it’s overwhelmingly positive for our community that this exists and think that it’s important to be committed to it,” said Christine Darr, a co-chairwoman of Dubuque Harm Reduction.

The prosecutor, County Attorney C.J. May III, told the Telegraph Herald on Thursday that there are no plans right now to pursue charges and said he respects that the group reached out to the county supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors and county health board members have been seeking solutions to opioid-related problems, May said, adding that that syringe services programs could be part of that.

“It’s obvious to me that there’s a public health issue involved,” he said.

The legislative bill that didn’t advance would have made an exception to the state’s drug paraphernalia law for “hypodermic needles or syringes delivered, sold or processed through an approved syringe services program.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said syringe service programs have been shown to reduce overdose deaths, reduce new hepatitis C and HIV infections and increase entries to substance abuse treatment programs.


Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com