California County’s Supervisors Deny Funds To Maintain Operation of Needle-Exchange Program
Contra Costa County, Calif., supervisors on Tuesday said they would not provide funding for the county's needle-exchange program, meaning the program will likely have to shut down, the Contra Costa Times reports (Felsenfeld, Contra Costa Times, 2/12). The program was established four years ago and provides more than 35,000 clean needles to an estimated 700 injection drug users in the area each year. Community Health Empowerment/Exchange Works, a private agency, currently administers the program with $262,000 in funding from grants and foundations, and the county Health Services Department contributes $25,000 for syringes. The agency has already spent this year's allotted funds, and Christine Leivermann, director of the county's AIDS program, said that the health department does not have the available funds to save the program. Other California counties spend more on their needle-exchange programs, including $600,000 annually in San Francisco and $500,000 annually in Santa Clara, according to Alex Kral, director of Urban Health Study at the University of California-San Francisco (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/11). The health department for a few weeks will continue to provide syringes to the program, while the board determines if it can "help the exchange in other ways," the Times reports. Supervisor John Gioia said, "I know they're looking for ways we can increase our funding, but we don't see how that can be possible at this time." In addition to the needle-exchange program, the county's AIDS prevention program also faces an "uncertain future," as Gov. Gray Davis (D) could use funds that could go to support the $1.3 million AIDS program to help reduce the state's budget deficit, the Times reports. Public Health Director Wendel Brunner added, "We're frankly quite anxious for what's going to happen in the next fiscal year" (Contra Costa Times, 2/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.