San Diego Close to Implementing Needle-Exchange Program
San Diego, which for years has opposed needle-exchange programs, appears on the "verge" of allowing a pilot program in certain neighborhoods with high rates of HIV and drug use, the Los Angeles Times reports. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors, which in 1997 voted against a needle-exchange program, "remains steadfastly against" such a initiative. Last year, the City Council rescinded an early panel's declaration of a health emergency in San Diego, a move that is the "precursor to implementing" a needle-exchange program. But the Times reports that a "political shift" on the City Council seems to have provided enough support for a one-year trial program. In addition, two groups that previously "steered clear" of the issue -- the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of African-American ministers and Urban League officials -- are now supporting needle exchanges, the Times reports. The City Council's Public Services and Neighborhood Safety Committee recently recommended a needle-exchange program that would limit the number of needles a person could receive and would require drug users to obtain identification cards. The $334,000 pilot program, which would be run by the Alliance Healthcare Foundation, would be evaluated every two to three weeks and could be terminated "immediately if problems arise." Although San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy is opposed to needle-exchange programs, he has not lobbied council members on the issue nor used his power to keep the issue off the council's agenda, the Times reports. Murphy said, "In my opinion, those kind of programs just encourage drug use. But I could not see any reason to bottle up something that a (council) committee recommended." The City Council is scheduled to discuss the pilot program tomorrow (Perry, Los Angeles Times, 11/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.