It’s just bad math. There’s no other way to look at it. Well, I shouldn’t say that. For some people, it makes perfect sense. For the rest of us, using tax dollars to give needles to drug users just doesn’t seem like a good idea.
The Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee in the House of Delegates passed the bill on Thursday, which was brought up by Republican John O’Bannon. Basically, it gives the Virginia Department of Health the authority to provide clean equipment to injection drug users. Now when they say equipment, it’s pretty clear. The bill spells out that its referring to needles and syringes.
On the one hand, I can see their intent and understand it. With so many drug users in the state, the concern about using dirty needles is a problem, one that can lead to hepatitis C or, if you’re extremely unlucky, HIV. By providing clean needles, the House members hope to cut down on the number of hepatitis C cases in the commonwealth, which as of 2016 was at more than 8,000. By comparison, there were only an estimated 2,800 in 2010, so yes, it’s hard for anyone to argue this isn’t a growing problem.
Tanner (not his real name) sat in the stairwell connecting the first and second floors of a parking structure near the Santa Ana Civic Center on a recent, cold Saturday afternoon. His rib cage was visible through a snug, faded red T-shirt; his long, dark hair exaggerated the thirtysomething’s jolty mannerisms. Snapping out of a trance, he glanced around, then grabbed something from a white paper bag between his legs.
In one quick motion, Tanner rolled up his left sleeve, wrapped a rubber tourniquet around his upper bicep, then dropped his left arm to the cement. He cleaned off the soft, inner crease connecting his forearm and bicep with an antibacterial wipe before reaching back into the bag, looking around one last time to see if anyone was near. Bending his forearm into a 90-degree angle and forming a fist with his left hand, Tanner flicked the syringe in his right hand twice, inspecting the liquefied heroin inside for air bubbles—all good.
The needle went into his arm, and the drug kicked in within seconds. Tanner swayed from side to side, his head in his hands. His arms then slowly fell to his sides while his body remained crouched. He stayed like this for nearly 30 minutes before getting up and slowly walking toward the Civic Center courtyard. In a complete daze, he sat down on the steps while about 50 people gathered in a line nearby.