FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) – The Department of Health and Human Services is rolling out a new program that will be what officials call “safe smoking kits with the idea of keeping people healthy enough to encourage them to quit smoking” .
“Harm reduction is one of those things that has become much more popular and readily available,” said Nate Moellering of Fort Wayne Recover.
Moellering says he understands why some people are skeptical of this program. Providing equipment to drug users, on the surface, can make some people cringe. He compared this plan to needle exchange programs that have been used in Indiana for years.
Moellering believes these kits will not allow drug use, but rather reduce its worst effects.
“It reduces respiratory disease, especially during the COVID pandemic, that’s very important,” Moellering said. “These populations who use these substances are very vulnerable to these different infections.”
The federal government announced the decision earlier this week. It’s a plan that officials say will also improve racial equity.
“This specific grant is for the most vulnerable people,” Moellering said. “Many of these people continue to use whether or not they have the right to use clean equipment.”
However, Republicans have expressed concerns about the plan, including Congressman Jim Banks. Banks cites drug overdoses as the leading cause of death among 18- to 45-year-olds.
“If you’re someone watching this needs help,” Moellering said. “I would encourage them to talk to a trusted family member. Find someone who knows what they’re doing and has been where that person is and talk to them.
HHS officials say funding should be available over a three-year period beginning in May. White House officials clarified on Wednesday that no pipes would be included in those kits. They will have supplies like overdose medication.
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