West Virginia lawmakers approve needle exchange regulations

West Virginia Headlines

FILE – In this Tuesday, March 9, 2021 file photo, Solutions Oriented Addiction Response organizer Brooke Parker displays an HIV testing kit in Charleston, W.Va. The nonprofit group operates health fairs for residents, including syringe exchanges and HIV testing. On Monday, April 5, 2021, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, R-W.Va., submitted a congressional inquiry with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding an HIV outbreak in West Virginia’s largest county, two months after a CDC official warned that Kanawha county’s outbreak was “the most concerning in the United States.” (AP Photo/John Raby)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia bill that would regulate needle exchange programs gained final approval in the legislature Saturday.

Critics have said more stringent requirements for the programs will constrain the number of providers who serve drug users not able to quit the habit.

Supporters say the legislation would help those addicted to opioids get connected to health care to fight addiction.

The new rules would take effect amid one of the nation’s highest spikes in HIV cases related to intravenous drug use.

The legislation requires operators to offer an array of health outreach services. Republican Gov. Jim Justice has said he backs the bill.

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