State Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, wants to make it legal for organizations to provide drug users with clean needles and syringes. She is proposing again next year to create so-called needle exchange programs that would make organizations distributing the items exempt from drug paraphernalia laws if they are registered with the Missouri HHS Department.

Representative Holly Rehder (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“Right now we have these (programs) functioning in Missouri but they’re having to do it under the radar because in Missouri, they would be considered paraphernalia, which is a crime,” says Rehder.

The programs help to prevent the spread of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis.

“I’m hoping that maybe we’ve gotten enough education out there across the state that maybe next year we’ll have a better chance of getting that across the line,” says Rehder.

Last session, the proposal did not make it out of committee.

About 30 states operate syringe exchange programs.

“The statistics show that these are people who use syringe access or needle exchange programs are five times more likely to get into treatment and successfully come out of treatment because we’ve met them where they are at in life,” says Rehder.

One argument raised is that addicts could be more likely to use heroin with more needles available.

Bob Ehle of KWIX Radio in Moberly contributed to this story.