New Jersey Lawmakers Might Approve Bill That Would Establish Needle-Exchange Program in Six Cities
In a "reversal that even supporters acknowledge would have been unexpected as recently as six months ago," lawmakers in New Jersey soon might approve a bill (S 494) that would establish a needle-exchange program in six cities and provide $10 million to drug treatment programs in the state, the New York Times reports (Jones, New York Times, 9/25). The state Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee last week voted 5-2 with one abstention to approve an amended version of the measure. The bill -- sponsored by state Sen. Nia Gill (D) -- would allow cities or towns to apply to the state Department of Health and Senior Services, which would select six cities or towns among the applicants to begin needle-exchange programs. Officials from Atlantic City and Camden have said they are interested in establishing programs. The amended version of the legislation would subject the programs to re-evaluation in five years. The bill must be approved by the state Budget and Appropriations Committee in order to go to the full state Senate and Assembly for consideration (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/21). Gov. John Corzine (D) has said that he would sign the measure into law, according to the Times. Some advocates of needle-exchange programs have said that the measure is "long overdue" and that a lack of action from the state Legislature has led to the deaths of an "untold number of drug users," the Times reports. State data indicates that more than four out of every 10 HIV cases occur among injection drug users, according to the Times. However, some opponents of the legislation -- including state Sen. Thomas Kean (R) -- have said that approval of the measure would signify the government's endorsement of illegal drug use, according to the Times. State Sen. Ronald Rice (D), who also opposes the measure, has said that a better use of state money would be to establish educational campaigns and treatment programs to combat drug use (New York Times, 9/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.