RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers have legalized needle and syringe exchange programs across the state to combat a heroin epidemic law enforcement officials say is reaching critical levels.
Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday approved the law despite objections from some conservative representatives who say such exchange programs only facilitate addictions.
Between 2010 and 2014, heroin overdose deaths in North Carolina have increased fivefold to 253, and cases of hepatitis C, often spread through shared needles, have nearly tripled, according to state health data.
Law enforcement say needle programs prevent officers and unsuspecting citizens from getting stuck by dirty needles discarded in public places.
Social workers say the programs provide safe spaces for addicts to seek treatment when they are ready.
The law took effect Monday.