Springfield, Mass., City Council Member Pushes For November Ballot Nonbinding Referendum on Needle-Exchange Programs
Springfield, Mass., City Councilor Timothy Rooke is pushing to place a nonbinding referendum on needle-exchange programs on the Nov. 6 ballot, the Springfield Union-News reports. Rooke, who opposes needle-exchange programs, wants to ask voters: "Do you want hypodermic needles handed out in your neighborhood to drug addicts to help slow the spread of AIDS?" (Goonan, Springfield Union-News, 8/31). Rooke in June sponsored a nonbinding resolution, which would have put the council on record as opposed to needle-exchange programs but in favor of drug treatment "on demand" and homosexual "partner notification" for HIV, that failed on a 4-4 vote (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/7). Elizabeth Simon, a spokesperson for the Springfield Harm Reduction Coalition, which favors exchanges, said, "This clearly is meant to arouse the fears -- 'Oh, there will be drug addicts running around and they might be dangerous.'" Rooke said in response, "I don't think [the question] is slanted. It is handing out needles to drug addicts to inject illegal drugs. There is no way to sugarcoat the question." He added that the ballot question could help determine if voters support such programs. The City Council is expected to vote on the proposal today (Springfield Union-News, 8/31).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.