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House Bill 182 passed through Ohio House Health and Aging Committee, moving toward full Ohio House of Representatives

House Health and Aging Committee voted unanimously (21-0) to approve House Bill 182

by Judith Pindell, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy

Columbus –On Wednesday February 8, 2012, the House Health and Aging Committee voted unanimously (21-0) to approve House Bill 182, a bill that would legalize syringe exchange programs in Ohio.  Syringe exchange programs are proven to be an effective prevention method for the reduction of HIV and Hepatitis C transmission. Currently in Ohio, a syringe exchange program can only operate when a city’s Health Commissioner declares a public emergency, and must have the cooperation of that city’s Mayor and Chief of Police. The only two such programs in Ohio now are operating in Cleveland and Portsmouth.

H.B. 182, sponsored by State Representatives Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Mike Foley (D-Cleveland), would explicitly allow syringe exchange programs to exist in cities that obtain approval from their city Board of Health. H.B.182 was introduced in March 2011, and shortly after its introduction in the Ohio House of Representatives, a sub-committee was created within the House Health and Aging Committee to hold hearings and report back to the full Committee.

Rep. Antonio explains, “HB 182 is a result of work by sub-committee members this summer Chaired by Representative Barbara Sears (R-Toledo). The committee heard testimony provided by 18 different individuals speaking to the issue.”

Throughout the summer of 2011, three hearings were held on the bill. Health officials, police commissioners, syringe exchange program staff, and supporters of syringe exchange programs testified in support of the legislation.  Chris Krueger, Syringe Access Program Coordinator of The AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland also testified and was instrumental in promoting this legislation.

Rep. Mike Foley stated, “I first want to thank the advocates especially for their great work so far on this legislation. Hopefully, this bipartisan support for a clean needle exchange bill will continue through the full House of Representatives and then the Ohio Senate.”

Rep. Antonio said, “I am pleased to report with bi-partisan support the bill passed out of the Health and Aging Committee and will hopefully continue to move forward. Syringe exchange programs are an additional tool to prevent disease transmission and a path to treatment. I believe that this bill will save lives.”