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House Bill 617 – Syringe and Needle Exchange Act, repeal

House Bill 617 – Syringe and Needle Exchange Act, repeal

Niklas Kleinworth
March 3, 2024

Bill Description: House Bill 617 repeals the Syringe and Needle Exchange Act under Chapter 34, Title 37, Idaho Code.

Rating: +2

Does it create, expand, or enlarge any agency, board, program, function, or activity of government? Conversely, does it eliminate or curtail the size or scope of government?

House Bill 617 ends the Idaho Syringe and Needle Exchange Program within the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. This program was enacted in 2019 through House Bill 180. Lawmakers meant the program to curtail needlestick injuries and the transmission of bloodborne pathogens, as well as to promote connection to rehab services.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare subsidizes and oversees the private entities that operate this program. It also oversees reporting requirements. The extent of government involvement makes this program effectively government-operated.

The program, five years into its existence, has largely missed its objective, and has even proven counterproductive. To date, there has been no measurement of the program’s impact of needlestick injuries in the community. There also has been no measurement of how many people it has moved toward obtaining rehab services. In 2022, Idaho’s Syringe and Needle Exchange program even added about 22,600 needles to our communities.

Repealing this program ends a failing government program and its involvement in subsidizing drug abuse in our communities.


Does it give government any new, additional, or expanded power to prohibit, restrict, or regulate activities in the free market? Conversely, does it eliminate or reduce government intervention in the market?

By subsidizing needle exchanges, the government increased its involvement in addiction services more broadly. Private entities do not need the government to be able to reach out to those suffering from addiction to controlled substances. Community programs offering naloxone distribution and connection with rehab services do not need government support — and the strings that come with it — to be effective.

Repealing this act could reduce the amount of government involvement in these services.


Does it increase government spending (for objectionable purposes) or debt? Conversely, does it decrease government spending or debt?

There was nothing in the Syringe and Needle Exchange Act that required the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to subsidize needle exchange and harm reduction programs. Even so, it spent a substantial amount of federally sourced dollars to prop-up these programs.

In the 2023 fiscal year, a portion of nearly $11 million in federal, State Opioid Response Grants was intended to support harm reduction and needle exchange programs. Today, these programs are largely supported by various federal hepatitis and HIV prevention grants.

Repealing these programs would reduce state spending and federal involvement in these programs.


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