Needle-Exchange Programs in Four New Jersey Cities Approved, Health Officials Say
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services on Tuesday approved the establishment of needle-exchange programs in four cities in the state, health officials announced, the Bergen Record reports. According to the Record, Atlantic City, Camden, Newark and Paterson have been approved by the health department to operate three-year pilot programs (Groves, Bergen Record, 8/1).
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, 7/31). According to the Record, no state funding will be allocated to the cities for operating needle-exchange programs (Bergen Record, 8/1).
The four cities can begin their programs as early as Sept. 1 but must start operating no later than Dec. 1, the AP/Forbes reports. Six other cities eligible for the program have until Aug. 24 to apply (Hester, AP/Forbes, 7/31).
Each program will be required to report data on the number of people participating in the programs and referred to drug treatment, the status of their treatment and the number of syringes exchanged, the Record reports. According to state Health Commissioner Fred Jacobs, the data will be used to promote the expansion of the program and will remain anonymous (Bergen Record, 8/1).
Bergen Record: "Providing free, clean syringes to drug addicts is no cause for celebration," a Record editorial says, adding, "It just happens to beat letting them use dirty needles and spread a deadly disease -- which, in our deeply imperfect world, is the only real alternative." Needle-exchange programs were "blocked for more than a decade" in New Jersey, the editorial says, concluding that for the "long delay in doing something" about the state's high number of HIV/AIDS cases, residents can "thank ... politicians with an excessive attachment to their own prejudices and re-election prospects" (Bergen Record, 8/2).
Newark Star-Ledger: There are two issues that the needle-exchange programs face in the state: a "lack of funding for all the programs, and the size of the Newark proposal," which was $1.2 million, a Star-Ledger editorial says. Although the law includes a "much-needed" $10 million for drug treatment programs, "not one dime for the needle-exchange programs was permitted by the bill," the editorial says. The programs are tests that each community "must pass with flying colors if there is ever to be any hope of convincing the Legislature that HIV prevention is one of the best bargains it can buy," the editorial says, adding that Newark needs to reconsider the budget for its program because it currently "will not help make that case" (Newark Star-Ledger, 7/31).