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Reader: Needle exchanges stop the spread of disease and save money

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As a former critical care RN, I'd like to offer a few thoughts on needle exchange. Set aside whatever you think about drug users, and look at it from a cold, financial perspective: Most people who use drugs are either on Medicaid or they are uninsured. People who use intravenous drugs are at high risk for various infectious diseases (AIDS, hepatitis C, bacterial endocarditis, to name a few). When these people show up at the hospital with bacterial endocarditis and end up needing heart valve replacement, who pays for their surgery? We all do. If they develop AIDS or hepatitis C, who pays for their treatment? We all do. Needle exchange doesn't just protect the users, it protects everyone who has contact with them, preventing the further spread of disease. So needle exchange prevents the spread of disease and in the long run saves money. In terms of return on investment, you would be hard pressed to find a better use of public health care dollars.

— Amy Sylvain, Colorado Springs

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