Camden City Council Tables Proposed Legislation That Would Create Needle-Exchange Programs
The Camden, N.J., City Council on Thursday tabled for further study legislation that would allow a needle-exchange program in the city to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among injection drug users, the Associated Press reports. The plan, which would require injection drug users to exchange used needles for sterile ones, would enable the AIDS Coalition of Southern Jersey and the Camden Area Health Education Center to use grant money to purchase the needles and manage the program (Associated Press, 6/10). However, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General in May said that a similar proposed program in Atlantic City, N.J., does not have the legal authority to start such a program. Atlantic City Health and Human Services Director Ron Cash had discussed implementing a program through city-run mobile health clinics, saying that the city's authority to begin such a program was based on a 1999 amendment that exempts government agencies from a section of state law that criminalizes needle and syringe possession. However, Attorney General Peter Harvey (D) reviewed the law and determined that it allows government agencies to distribute needles and syringes only to people with prescriptions (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/25). The Camden program would cost approximately $70,000 annually, which some advocates say is "smart economically" because it is about 25% of the cost of treating one HIV-positive person for life, according to the Associated Press. Camden County Prosecutor Vincent Sarubbi has contacted city officials with concerns similar to those of Atlantic City officials, Sarubbi spokesperson Bill Shralow said. Atlantic City officials have said that they plan to move forward with their proposed program, the Associated Press reports. New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (D) has said he supports needle-exchange programs only in hospital-based settings, according to the Associated Press (Associated Press, 6/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.