A Qualitative Analysis of Community Support for Syringe Decriminalization in Pennsylvania

Ryan Howe, Madeline Lepore, School of Nursing, University of Pittsburgh, 3500 Victoria Street, Pittsburgh PA 15261

Background: The criminalization of syringe possession in Pennsylvania creates a barrier for syringe service programs (SSPs) to open and operate. Amending the legislature to reflect syringe decriminalization remains an ongoing effort among harm reduction experts throughout Pennsylvania to increase the well-being of people who inject drugs (PWID).  

Method:  Qualitative data for this study was obtained from a series of structured interviews as part of larger study for a policy analysis of syringe decriminalization in Pennsylvania with permission from the primary researcher. Interviews were conducted with ten community-residing harm reduction experts identified through snowball sampling. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded to identify themes among responses using grounded theory technique.

Results: All of the interviewees expressed support for syringe decriminalization in the state of Pennsylvania. The responses for the supporting rationale of syringe decriminalization generated a variety of themes. The themes were consistent throughout many of the interviews and their similarities were noted. The most frequent reasoning for decriminalization included health reasons, government responsibility, bridge to the next step, cost savings, and destigmatization.

Conclusion: The results of the interview analysis reflected unanimous support for syringe decriminalization in Pennsylvania. The harm reduction experts provided abundant rationale for their support of syringe decriminalization and community harm reduction programming. The decriminalization of syringes would be a vital step towards achieving evidence-based and accessible SSPs for PWID.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Ryan Howe

Institution: University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing

Type: Oral

Subject: Nursing & Public Health

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Oral 9
Date/Time: Wed 12:00pm-1:00pm
Session Number: 935
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