San Diego City Council Special Election Outcome May Affect Needle-Exchange Debate
As debate continues in San Diego over needle-exchange programs, a Feb. 27 special election to fill a city council member vacancy in San Diego's 8th district could provide the deciding vote for or against measures that would enable the implementation of such a program, the Los Angeles Times reports. The San Diego City Council voted last October to declare a state of health emergency in response to rapidly rising rates of hepatitis C and HIV infection. Under state law, the declaration can be a "precursor" to the creation of a needle-exchange program. Upon assuming mayoral office in December, newly elected Dick Murphy, along with four other new council members, voted to "rescind" the declaration. Despite this action, the council has created a needle-exchange task force that will examine programs currently in place in Los Angeles and Baltimore, Md. Eighth district candidate Ralph Inzunza expressed his support of needle-exchange programs, saying, "It's not a glamorous issue, like building ... a central library or convention center. This is life and death. Unless we do something, we're going to have an epidemic." The San Diego-based Alliance Healthcare Foundation, a not-for-profit group devoted to public health issues, has continued to encourage the council to create a program, offering to fund the program so that public money "need not be spent." Foundation Chief Executive Director Ruth Lyn Riedel said, "We reside in a politically conservative community which does not view science as a way to make decisions ... They are more concerned about what they see as moral and ethical concerns" (Perry, Los Angeles Times, 1/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.