Missouri health director supports needle exchange

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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – Missouri’s health department director says he wants lawmakers to pass legislation for a needle-exchange program in the state.

Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams on Wednesday said providing intravenous drug users with clean syringes could reduce needle-sharing that spreads hepatitis C and HIV. His comments came after he and other experts talked about ways to fight the deadly opioid crisis in Missouri during a conference in Columbia.

Williams said the potential health benefits outweigh concerns that a needle exchange could enable drug use. He said there’s no evidence that would happen.

Several Indiana counties launched needle exchanges following an HIV outbreak in a southern Indiana county.

Williams said he also supports Missouri lawmakers requiring continuing education for prescribing opioids and managing pain.