Syringe Services Programs

CDC, HRSA & SAMHSA Issue Agency-Specific Guidance on Use of Federal Funds for SSPs


Three federal agencies have issued guidance to grantees on how to obtain approval for use of federal grant funds to support approved SSP activities.

CDC, HRSA and SAMHSA logos

Preventing HIV and Hepatitis Among People Who Inject Drugs and Their Partners

Listen to CDC's 60-second PSA on Syringe Services Programs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is committed to working with grantees and partners to reduce the spread of HIV and viral hepatitis in the United States. The nation is experiencing a growing epidemic of illegal opioid drug use, which has also led to an increase in unsafe injection practices that put people who inject drugs (PWID) at risk of HIV and viral hepatitis.

One means of preventing transmission of these blood-borne infections is through reducing the sharing of needles, syringes, and other drug injection equipment by PWID.  Syringe services programs (SSPs) that allow PWID to exchange used syringes for sterile ones have been demonstrated to be an effective component of a comprehensive approach to prevent HIV and viral hepatitis among PWID, while not increasing drug use.

HHS Implementation Guidance to Support Certain Component of Syringe Services Programs (2016)

CDC Vital Signs

In March 2016, HHS issued guidance (PDF 976 KB) for HHS-funded programs regarding the use of federal funds to implement or expand syringe services programs (SSPs) for people who inject drugs. The guidance is the result of the bipartisan budget agreement that was signed into law in December 2015 which revised a previous Congressional ban on the use of federal funds for such programs and now allows communities with a demonstrated need to use federal funds for the operational components of syringe services programs.

The HHS guidance describes how health departments can request to use federal funds to start or expand SSPs in order to prevent new HIV and viral hepatitis infections and how those funds can be used.  The guidance states that state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments must consult with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and provide evidence that their jurisdiction is (1) experiencing, or (2) at risk for significant increases in viral hepatitis infections or an HIV outbreak due to injection drug use. After receiving a request for determination of need, CDC will have 30 days to notify the requestor whether the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate a need for SSPs.

Agency-Specific Guidance

When CDC finds there is sufficient evidence, state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments and other eligible HHS grant recipients may then apply to their respective federal agencies to direct funds to support approved SSP activities. Each funding agency will be providing specific SSP guidance to its grantees regarding which specific programs may apply and the application process for each agency:

Key Resources About Using Federal Funds to Support SSPs

  • CDC Webinar on Obtaining Approval for Use of Federal Funds for SSPs
    On April 27, 2016, CDC hosted a webinar to walk participants through the process of requesting a determination of need for syringe services programs (SSPs) in consultation with CDC. Participants received practical information and tips for preparing these requests as well as responses to their questions. If interested in requesting a CDC determination of need for SSPs within a jurisdiction, these webinar resources may be helpful to HIV, viral hepatitis, injury, and/or substance abuse prevention, surveillance, and program staff within health departments:
  • Read this related blog post by HHS’s Dr. Richard Wolitski
  • Download the HHS guidance (PDF 976 KB)
  • Download the HRSA guidance (PDF 324 KB)
  • Read letters CDC sent to prevention colleagues (PDF 110 KB) and grantees (PDF 193 KB) announcing the release of the HHS SSP guidance
  • Review this White House fact sheet on the opioid epidemic in the U.S.
  • Read a statement by CDC’s Dr. Jonathan Mermin

Take a Closer Look

Below are further resources about SSPs in general:

Last revised: 01/20/2017