Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Approves Funding for Needle-Exchange Programs
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 3-2 to allocate $500,000 for five needle-exchange programs to help slow the spread of HIV, hepatitis and other bloodborne diseases among injection drug users, the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 8/3). The approval will make the service available in local communities outside the city of Los Angeles for the first time, the Copley News/Torrance Daily Breeze reports. Los Angeles County Public Health Director Jonathan Fielding said his agency will ask the not-for-profit groups that currently provide needle-exchange services for about 11,600 people in the city of Los Angeles to broaden their reach to the rest of the county. Funding for the programs, which is coming from tobacco settlement money, likely will pay for four mobile sites and one fixed site where drug users can exchange used needles for clean ones, Fielding said, adding that his agency aims to reach another 10,000 people throughout the county. About 45% of the county's 72,000 injection drug users share needles, Fielding said. "We're not providing drugs or condoning drug use in any way," he said, adding, "What we want to do is try to prevent those who use drugs from transmitting potentially fatal diseases." Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who cast one of the two opposing votes, was "openly scornful" about the programs' approval, according to the Copley News/Daily Breeze. One of his complaints is that needle-exchange program clients will not have to provide any identification showing they are at least 18 years old. "What we need to have are aggressive drug rehabilitation programs, not a politically correct system that fosters" injection drug use, he said (Smith, Copley News/Torrance Daily Breeze, 8/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.