Voters in Holyoke, Mass., Reject Needle-Exchange Program
Voters in Holyoke, Mass., on Tuesday voted to reject a non-binding referendum asking if a needle-exchange program should be established in the city, the Springfield Union-News reports. The referendum "sparked heated discussion" in Holyoke, where the City Council voted eight to six earlier this year to reject a needle-exchange program. Proponents of the program said that distributing clean needles would reduce HIV and hepatitis C transmission, get more drug users into treatment and reduce the number of contaminated needles on the street, while opponents said that the program would bring "more drugs, addicts and crime" into the city and "encourage" non-drug users to experiment with drugs. The city's 275 reported HIV/AIDS cases represent an epidemic, according to the state Department of Public Health. Timothy Purington, a Holyoke resident who runs a needle-exchange program in Northampton, Mass., said the issue "should have never been in a municipal election," adding that "[c]ities shouldn't have to make decisions about public health intervention." Ward Four City Councilor Richard Welch said he was "delighted" by the vote's outcome. "We don't need needle-exchange programs. I would cooperate with anyone or any organization that is trying to do something for people with HIV or AIDS," he said, adding that needle-exchange programs "encourage people to use drugs" (Arbulu, Springfield Union-News, 11/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.