New Jersey Will Not Allocate Money for Newark’s Pilot Needle-Exchange Program, City Health Officials Say
Health officials in Newark, N.J., announced recently that the state is not providing money for the city's proposed $1.2 million needle-exchange pilot program despite funding applications for the program, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. The city's pilot program is seeking to reach as many as 300 injection drug users during its first year through fixed and mobile sites, according to an application filed with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. However, without state funds, the city will have to "scale back its effort or find the money elsewhere," the Star-Ledger reports (Durando, Newark Star-Ledger, 7/30).
Health department spokesperson Tom Slater in June said that the department was considering criteria from five cities, including Newark, to establish needle-exchange programs and that a decision was expected soon. He added that the first pilot projects likely would be launched by the end of the summer.
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in December 2006 signed into law a bill that allows six cities to establish needle-exchange programs and provides $10 million to drug treatment programs in the state. The state health commissioner under the legislation must report to the governor and state Legislature on whether the needle-exchange program is effective. In addition, people who participate in and run the programs would be required to carry identification cards that protect them from being arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia. To be eligible for the program, a city must have at least 300 HIV/AIDS cases attributed to injection drug use per 100,000 residents and at least 350 confirmed HIV/AIDS cases overall (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/14).
Slater said recently that there is "no money in the budget" for needle-exchange programs, adding, "All applicants were told that there was no state funding for the needle-exchange portion of the project." Marsha McGowan, a Newark health officer, said, "To come up with an application that has that kind of budget, certainly without a source of income, we would have to come up with something smaller." She added that city health officials were "under the impression, as a matter of fact we were told, to submit a budget based on our need."
Eddy Bresnitz, deputy commissioner of Health and Senior Services, said, "The state was given the task of overseeing" the programs. Bresnitz added that New Jersey is "requiring all the (applicants) to demonstrate that they can do the programs, but they also have the resources to do that." Wesley Tahsir-Rodriguez, AIDS director for Newark, said, "I've never heard of anybody issuing a request for an application without any funding for it," adding, "Why would we even need to submit a plan if there was no money?" (Newark Star-Ledger, 7/30).