Letters to the Editor

The pandemic no one is talking about

According to the CDC the US hit a new peak in overdose deaths in 2019. Iowa also saw an increase in opioid deaths last year. Nearly 71,000 Americans died last year, a record. These numbers predate the COVID-19 pandemic and experts believe that isolation and anxiety may lead to an increase in overdose deaths. Our country is currently amid an opioid epidemic involving the misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers as well as heroin and fentanyl. Legislative action is needed. In 2018, our leaders failed to pass a bill that would legalize syringe support programs (SSPs). SSPs are shown to protect the health and safety of police officers, firefighters, other civil servants, and the public by helping to reduce the transmission of blood-borne diseases and taking used syringes off the streets. SSPs do not increase crime or drug use; instead they provide injection drug users additional resources including: overdose prevention education, Naloxone distribution, linkage to housing and other community resources, connection to drug treatment, and HIV and hepatitis C testing. SSPs have expanded rapidly across the U.S. in recent years but Iowa is one of only 12 states that require legislative action to permit syringe exchange legally. Similar programs in the 38 other states have received funding through other federal programs and private foundations. This means that no state funding will be necessary. Without this legislation, Iowans are being denied access to evidence-based lifesaving services and putting our first responders and community at greater risk.

Tiffany Schliemann


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