STATE EYES NEEDLE EXCHANGE LAW
McGreevey, Legislators Agree to Craft Rules to Aid Drug Users.
TRENTON - Gov. James McGreevey has asked legislators and state health
officials to design a program that offers drug users clean needles to
slow the spread of AIDS and hepatitis C.
Health Commissioner Clifton Lacy said Tuesday he met with legislators
earlier in the afternoon to work out details of the program. A
specific proposal was expected in upcoming weeks, he said.
"It's our intent to have this legislation crafted, moved through the
Legislature and to Gov. McGreevey by the end of his tenure," Lacy
McGreevey, who has been a supporter of needle exchange programs, will
leave office Nov. 15 in the wake of a sex scandal.
Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, chairman of the Senate Health
Committee, said the talks are still in the early stages and many
details need to be worked out.
"We are trying to fashion a health policy through legislation that
will begin to stem the tide of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New Jersey,"
said Vitale, a longtime supporter of needle exchange programs.
New Jersey is one of two states with neither a legal needle exchange
program nor a law allowing nonprescription sales of needles and syringes.
Under the working proposal, municipalities will be able to decide if
they want to have a needle exchange in their town, said Sen. Nia Gill,
D-Essex. The program also will provide addicts with referrals to
health care providers and counseling.
New Jersey has had 62,752 reported cases of HIV -- the fifth-highest in
the United States -- and a third of those cases were transmitted
through shared needles, according to state officials. The state also
is the third highest in the nation for pediatric AIDS cases, and one
of every three HIV victims is a woman.
Critics object to having the government supply the means by which
users of heroin and other illegal drugs can inject them.
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