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Needle Exchange Law Takes Effect in New Mexico


August 1997

On June 20, 1997, the "Harm Reduction Act" (SB 220) took effect in New Mexico, which instructs the state Department of Health (DOH) to "establish and administer a harm reduction program for the purpose of sterile hypodermic syringe and needle exchange" ("Harm Reduction Act," Legislature of the State of New Mexico, 43rd Legislature, 1st Session, Laws 1997, Chapter 256).

The purpose of the new law is to "prevent the transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B and C viruses and other blood-borne diseases," and to "encourage intravenous drug users to seek substance abuse treatment and ensure that participants receive individual counseling and education to decrease the risk of transmission of blood-borne diseases."

To develop policies and procedures for syringe exchange programs, the new law established the Harm Reduction Act Implementation Advisory Committee, which includes representation from state law enforcement agencies, DOH, and other organizations "chosen by the secretary of health to ensure a thorough and unbiased evaluation of the program." The advisory committee is also responsible for developing criteria and producing an annual report evaluating the needle exchange program.

Steven T. Bunch, Esq., a member of the National Drug Strategy Network and president of the New Mexico Drug Policy Foundation, will serve as a member of the advisory committee. Bunch served as an expert on the bill for Senator Carlos Cisneros, the bill's sponsor, while it was being debated in the Senate. Only two Senators voted against the bill, and Governor Gary Johnson signed it on April 11.

Steven A. Jenison, M.D., Public Health Division, New Mexico DOH, 1190 St. Francis Dr., P.O. Box 26110, Santa Fe, NM 87502-6110, Tel: (505) 827-2389.

Steven T. Bunch, Esq., New Mexico Drug Policy Foundation, P.O. Box 6994, Alburquerque, NM 87197, Tel: (505) 344-1932, Fax: (505) 344-6716.