Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
USA Today Examines New Jersey Measure That Would Establish Needle-Exchange Program in Six Cities
USA Today on Tuesday examined the debate surrounding a New Jersey bill (S 494) that would establish a needle-exchange program in six cities and provide $10 million to drug treatment programs in the state. According to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, 14% of new HIV/AIDS cases in the state in 2005 were attributed to injection drug use (Moore, USA Today, 10/3). The bill -- sponsored by state Sen. Nia Gill (D) -- would allow cities or towns to apply to the health department, 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. The committee did not take action on legislation that would have allowed the nonprescription sale of up to 10 syringes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/26). The bill "still faces opposition," most notably from state Sen. Ronald Rice (D), USA Today reports. "I'm not ever going to vote to give people a needle," Rice said, adding that needle-exchange programs condone illegal drug use and the violent crimes that are associated with it. Some advocates of needle-exchange programs say that the programs encourage injection drug users to eventually accept other social services. The program is a "bridge to treatment," Roseanne Scotti -- director of the not-for-profit Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey, which advocates for needle-exchange programs -- said, adding that IDUs "come for syringes, but they feel comfortable there. Needle-exchange programs do thousands and thousands of referrals" to treatment programs (USA Today, 10/3). Needle-exchange programs are supported by "about every major scientific or medical organization," such as NIH, the American Medical Association, CDC and the New Jersey Hospital Association, according to some advocates of the program. Delaware is the only other state in the country that prohibits needle-exchange programs and nonprescription sale of syringes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/6). Needle-exchange programs in the U.S. are not federally funded and are opposed by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, USA Today reports (USA Today, 10/3).
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