Opioid epidemic has had a big impact.
In some areas, that impact has manifested in epidemic rates of new cases of HIV and Hepatitis C. That’s why programs that offer IV drug users the opportunity to exchange old needles for sterile ones, among other services, are key in fighting the spread of disease.
Studies have shown that needle exchange programs don’t increase drug use. Instead, the focus is on harm reduction and the programs are often a bridge for many when they are ready to seek treatment to overcome an addiction to opiates. Indiana and Kentucky are two states that have been hit hard with the economic cost of treating epidemic outbreaks of HIV and Hep C. Notably, those states did not have needle exchange programs in place and faced some resistance in the discussion of such a possibility. Here’s an interesting story about then-Governor of Indiana’s Mike Pence and his change of attitude toward needle exchange programs, especially at the Center for Disease Control’s urging. You can read more here.