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NJ Failing to Support Needle Exchange: Playing AIDS Games in New Jersey
 
 
  EDITORIAL
NY Times
June 30, 2005
 
The New Jersey State Senate is placing politics above public safety - and tacitly promoting the spread of H.I.V. and AIDS - by failing to pass a desperately needed needle exchange bill that was approved by the State Assembly last year. Without access to clean needles, or to treatment programs, which are now overcrowded, addicts risk almost certain infection by continuing to share needles with other addicts. They then spread AIDS through sexual contact to their wives, lovers and unborn children, endangering an ever-widening circle of lives.
 
Opponents of needle exchange programs typically argue that furnishing addicts with clean needles "legitimizes" drug use. But this view is based in ideology, not science. It has been directly contradicted by studies carried out across the United States and around the world that show that needle exchanges slow the spread of disease without creating new intravenous-drug addicts. The needle exchange solution is sorely needed in New Jersey, which has one of the highest infection rates in the country, and especially in Atlantic City, an epicenter of the state's AIDS epidemic.
 
Before he left office last year, Gov. James McGreevey issued an executive order allowing needle exchange programs, hoping that the State Legislature would act later. The Senate, however, has dragged its feet. In addition, a group of senators, led by Tom Kean Jr., a Republican, have challenged the executive order in court. Mr. Kean may benefit politically from this move. But New Jerseyans as a whole will pay a price in spreading infections, higher costs to care for AIDS patients and more unnecessarily lost lives.
 
NEEDLE EXCHANGE BLOCKED IN NJ
By RONALD SMOTHERS
June 26, 2005, Sunday
NY Times
 
New Jersey's second-highest court has blocked the start of a needle exchange program in Camden and Atlantic City, pending a hearing on the program's merits and its institution by executive order. The Appellate Division of State Superior Court has issued an order halting the program, which was to start on July 1. Before he left office, Gov. James E. McGreevey issued an executive order authorizing the program, citing H.I.V. rates among drug users. Opponents called the order an attempt to circumvent the Legislature. Ronald Smothers
 
Judge blocks needle program
Legislators gain injunction

Tuesday, June 21, 2005
BY SUSAN K. LIVIO
Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger
 
A judge in Mercer County has temporarily halted the creation of needle exchange programs in Atlantic City and Camden that were expected to begin next month, handing a victory to legislators who say the practice condones illegal drug use.
 
Appellate Court Judge Stephen Skillman on Friday granted an injunction at the request of seven state legislators who say former Gov. James McGreevey overstepped his authority last fall when he signed an executive order permitting up to three experimental needle exchange programs in cities hardest hit by the AIDS virus.
 
"Today's court ruling is a victory for common sense," said Assemblyman Joseph Pennacchio (R- Morris), one of the seven lawmakers who filed suit to overturn the order. "This was an ill-conceived policy from the moment it was proposed, and today's ruling will give the state an opportunity to change course on this important issue."
 
A court hearing will be scheduled in the future to decide whether the executive order should be permanently dismissed, said attorney Michael Laffey of Holmdel, who represents the lawmakers.
 
Lee Moore, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said a decision had not been reached last night on whether to appeal Skillman's ruling.
 
McGreevey's executive order declared a public health emergency in cities with high HIV infection rates due to injection drug use, and allowed three communities under the supervision of the state Health Department to operate a pilot program.
 
The cities would have to provide intravenous drug users with access to clean syringes in exchange for used needles, as well as links to health care, social services and addiction treatment if addicts requested them.
 
The order was one of McGreevey's last acts before he resigned Nov. 15, but acting Gov. Richard Codey, appointed to finish his term, has also supported the program. In March, the Health Department sought applications from nine cities with the highest HIV and AIDS rates.
 
Only Atlantic City and Camden applied. Both cities had already tried to launch their own programs last year, but an Atlantic County judge invalidated Atlantic City's ordinance, saying municipalities lack the authority to supersede state law -- in this case, the drug paraphernalia law that prevents the distribution of syringes.
 
New Jersey is one of two states, along with Delaware, that prohibits both the sale of syringes and their distribution through needle exchange. Efforts to legalize either practice have failed for nearly a decade.
 
John Tomicki, executive director of the League of American Families, a conservative group that has been a longtime vocal needle exchange opponent, praised the judge's ruling.
 
"We're grateful that the court saw there is no grounds under the McGreevey order for needle exchange. We also know that case histories have concluded that needle exchange programs increase substance abuse, increase crime in the area and increase death by drug overdose," Tomicki said.
 
The ruling discouraged Roseanne Scotti of the Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey, who has been helping Atlantic City and Camden prepare their needle exchange programs.
 
"How can anyone argue that there is no emergency in New Jersey regarding injection related HIV? More than 15,000 people have died and another 15,000 are currently infected due to the sharing of contaminated syringes," Scotti said. "How many people have to die before our elected officials see that there is a crisis?"
 
Ronald Cash, Atlantic City's director of hehalth and human services, also expressed disappointment. "The people that would have been helped the most are the ones that are going to be hurt the most -- specifically women and children," he said.
 
The seven lawmakers who sued the state are Sens. Ronald Rice (D- Essex) and Thomas Kean Jr. (R- Union); Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose (R-Sussex); and Assemblymen Pennacchio, Eric Munoz (R-Union), Michael Patrick Carroll and Richard Merkt (both R-Morris).
 
McGreevey Allows Needle Exchanges in 3 Cities for H.I.V. Prevention
By DAMIEN CAVE; LAURA MANSNERUS
NY Times
Oct 27, 2004
 
ABSTRACT - Gov James E McGreevey signs executive order allowing drug addicts in Atlantic City, Camden and another New Jersey city yet to be determined to exchange needles in order to decrease spread of AIDS; Health Dept says that rate of HIV infection among New Jersey's 28,000 injection drug users is above national average and that 51 percent of state's HIV infections are related to injection drug use; McGreevey says that prevalence of HIV decreased 29 percent in cities with needle-exchange programs while increasing by 5 percent in cities without one; critics say that because there has been no recent change in state's AIDS situation, constitutionality of order is suspect: photos (M)
 
Trenton: Group Files Suit Against Needle Exchange
By JOSH BENSON (NYT); COMPILED BY ANTHONY RAMIREZ
NY Times
December 14, 2004, Tuesday
 
A group of state legislators filed a lawsuit yesterday to stop a needle-exchange program intended to reduce the spread of the AIDS virus through intravenous drug use. Under the program, drug users could receive new needles in exchange for used syringes that might be carrying the AIDS virus. The program was ordered in October by Gov. James E. McGreevey and is supported by his successor, Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey, who plans to name three pilot cities for the program next month. The legislators' suit, filed in State Superior Court, seeks to stop the McGreevey executive order that created the program by finding it an unconstitutional ''usurpation of legislative powers.'' A plaintiff, Senator Ronald L. Rice, a Democrat, said that such needle programs encouraged drug addiction. New Jersey is one of two states to ban the sale or distribution of needles without a doctor's prescription. Josh Benson (NYT)
 
 
 
 
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