Advocates of Syringe Exchange Program Hoping to Reduce Hepatitis Cases

IOWA  --  In addition to the opioid epidemic in Iowa, there has also been an increase in cases of Hepatitis C.

Lawmakers are now trying to figure out not only how to battle drug addiction, but also keep users safe from the infection. They are discussing a bill to legalize a syringe exchange program. Syringes are classified as drug paraphernalia in Iowa. Advocates say legalizing them would provide sterile needles to addicts and prevent the spread of diseases.

Hepatitis cases in Iowa are up nearly 400% in six years. Leaders with the Iowa Department of Public Health say half of those cases are a result of drug use.

"This would free people up to have access to clean syringes so they aren't reusing old syringes that increase their chances to get an infection," said Kim Brown, founder of Quad Cities Harm Reduction.

If it passes, Iowa could qualify for federal funding to pay for the program.