Jacksonville city leader proposes ‘safe syringe program’ for drug addicts

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There’s a push to give drug users clean needles in Jacksonville. City council member Michael Boylan believes the “Safe Syringe Program” would cut down on addiction and disease associated with illegal drug use.

“I call it the gateway to care,” Boylan said. “The idea that people who are using illicit drugs come and exchange syringes. Through that process [they] have a connecting point get care for themselves.”

STORY: Nassau County Sheriff’s Office comfort dog helps deputies

According to Boylan, in 2019, Duval County came in fourth in the state for new HIV cases -- which is often spread through dirty, used needles. Boylan is creating a bill to bring the Safe Syringe Program to Jacksonville.

“I’m for it,” Ann Stevenson told Action News Jax.

She fully supports Boylan’s plan.

“That would be very good and would prevent other things from happening,” Stevenson added.

Meanwhile, Winston Blake supports helping drug addicts beat addiction, but he worries giving them needles would enable them to continue using drugs.

“I don’t think that’s gonna solve the problem,” Blake explained, adding, “I agree more with programs that help them to get rehabilitated to break the vicious cycle.”

Boylan says similar programs have had success in South Florida.

“One of the big issues a lot of people talk about is a program like this will increase public exposure to syringes. Quite frankly, it’s just the opposite. They saw a nearly 50 percent decrease in public exposure to used syringes,” Boylan explained.

But in a video from Action News Jax’s sister station KIRO in Seattle, you can see used needles littering the city. Those are the same needles given out by that city’s Safe Syringe Program.

Boylan has already met with a slew of nonprofit organizations ready to carry out the program. And, he says, it wouldn’t cost the taxpayer a cent, as all funding would be raised externally.

LINK: COJ passes bill to help fix train trouble in San Marco

There’s one thing city leaders and locals all agree on, helping those in tough times. Boylan says the Safe Syringe Program could help thousands of people in Jacksonville.

Boylan expects to introduce his bill before the end of the year. It would go before council in the new year.