Atlantic City, Camden, N.J., Apply for Pilot Needle-Exchange Programs
Two New Jersey cities -- Atlantic City and Camden -- on Friday met a state Department of Health and Senior Services deadline to volunteer to implement needle-exchange programs to reduce the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases among injection drug users, the Newark Star-Ledger reports (Livio, Newark Star-Ledger, 4/30). Former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (D) in October 2004 signed an executive order allowing up to three cities in the state to establish needle-exchange programs. The order declares a "state of emergency" until Dec. 31, 2005, and authorizes the state health department to administer needle-exchange programs in cities that meet specific requirements (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/14/04). The state invited nine cities -- Atlantic City, Camden, East Orange, Elizabeth, Irvington, Jersey City, Newark, Paterson and Trenton -- to apply for programs. However, only Atlantic City and Camden -- both of which last year adopted ordinances creating needle-exchange programs -- volunteered to implement state-run programs, state Health Department spokesperson Donna Leusner said on Friday. Camden has proposed operating a mobile needle-exchange program with a not-for-profit group, and Atlantic City has proposed operating mobile and stationary locations with a not-for-profit group, according to the Star-Ledger. If state health officials approve the two cities' applications by the May 6 deadline, the programs could begin operating by early summer, according to local officials. One of every 40 Atlantic City residents is HIV-positive and 50% of all new cases in the city are attributable to injection drug use or sexual intercourse with injection drug users. There are 1,340 HIV-positive residents of Camden, according to Anthony Lingo, manager of special grant projects for the city's Department of Health & Human Services (Newark Star-Ledger, 4/30).
Four New Jersey state legislators in December 2004 filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate McGreevey's executive order. The legislators -- state Sens. Ronald Rice (D) and Tom Kean (R) and Assembly members Joe Pennacchio (R) and Eric Munoz (R) -- claim that McGreevey "overstepped his responsibilities and constitutional powers." Pennacchio said that the legislators decided to file the suit after the state Office of Legislative Services issued an opinion in November 2004 stating that New Jersey's HIV prevalence might not have constituted an emergency under the state's Disaster Control Act, therefore leaving McGreevey no authority to issue the order (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/14/04). Kean said the lawsuit is still "working its way through the courts," adding, "My hope is the court will realize there is something happening and recognize there is a new level of immediacy." However, Roseanne Scotti, director of the not-for-profit Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey, which helped the cities prepare their needle-exchange proposals, said, "Our hope, once the programs are up and running, is that people will see it works" (Newark Star-Ledger, 4/30). About half of New Jersey's 62,000 HIV/AIDS cases are attributable to injection drug use, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports (AP/Long Island Newsday, 4/30).