To end the overdose crisis, New Jersey must support people throughout the spectrum of substance use and expand syringe access. Proposed legislation (A-4847/S-3009) would do just that.
Frequently Asked Questions
Syringe access programs (SAPs) are a public health success story, and their story usually follows a common path: starting as underground and criminalized, then tacitly accepted by law enforcement and local leaders, and finally embraced and funded by local, state, and federal health agencies.
As is so often the case, New Jersey’s SAP history is atypical. We doubled down on arrests of people operating SAPs at the height of the HIV crisis, at a time when women in New Jersey faced the highest HIV rates in the nation and New Jersey’s children faced the third highest.
By the time New Jersey legalized syringe access, we were one of the last states in the nation with a pathway for residents to get new, sterile syringes.
And the compromise law to legalize syringe access in 2006, despite being updated in 2016, is now tragically limiting our ability to respond to the overdose crisis and prevent new HIV outbreaks.
It is time to undo the shameful legacy of New Jersey’s failure to embrace lifesaving SAPs and make these essential services available regardless of zip code.
Current law requires municipal authorization before any new programs open—a barrier that does not exist for any other health care service. This was originally a compromise to pass the 2006 syringe access legislation after years of entrenched “tough on crime” and drug war stigma against lifesaving public health measures.
Today — with incontrovertible evidence that syringe access works and amidst a rising overdose crisis — the outdated municipal ordinance requirement is the biggest barrier to syringe access expansion in New Jersey.This barrier does not exist for any other health service in the state, and is discriminatory against people living with a substance use disorder and people living with or at-risk of HIV.
People with access to a syringe access program are:
- Less likely to die from an opioid-related overdose
- Five times more likely to stop substance use that causes them problems
- Three times more likely to stop substance use altogether
- 50 percent less likely to acquire HIV or Hepatitis C
- Municipalities retain zoning authority
- New Jersey Department of Health will consult with municipalities and have regulatory oversight of any new services
- Syringe services can be integrated into existing public health and social services, adding a lifesaving option to “meet people where they are at” in receiving support for substance use disorder