House of Delegates passes city needle exchange expansion

The House voted Friday to expand Baltimore City's needle exchange program, but not before members debated whether giving addicts access to more clean syringes could aggravate growing heroin use in the state.

The measure, which passed 84-51, would lift the "one-for-one" restriction on swapping clean for used needles under the exchange program run the past 20 years by the city's Health Department. About 2,500 people have obtained 500,000 new syringes that way, reducing the risks of transmitting HIV and other blood-borne infections through the sharing of needles.

Del. Tony McConkey, an Anne Arundel County Republican, opposed the measure, saying it was "irresponsible" at a time when heroin use is on the rise across Maryland for taxpayers to be paying to supply addicts with needles.

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