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ptpeet at nyc.rr.com
Wed May 12 16:57:58 EDT 2004
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----- Original Message -----
From: Steven Fenichel
Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2004 3:42 PM
Subject: calling for letter writing avalache
May 12, 2004
Atlantic County prosecutor says no to A.C. needle exchange
By PETE McALEER Statehouse Bureau, (609) 292-4935
Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey S. Blitz has told Atlantic City officials
they do not have the authority to start the state's first needle-exchange
program on their own.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford and his administration, which views needle exchange
as a way to combat the high rate of AIDS and hepatitis C in the city, appear
willing to contest the edict, even if it means a court battle.
"We're still planning on moving forward," Atlantic City Health and Human
Services Director Ron Cash said. "There are some legal challenges we need to
Blitz first learned of the city's plans two weeks ago, after a report in The
Press of Atlantic City in which Cash confirmed discussions to start a
program that would allow heroin addicts to exchange used needles for clean
ones at city-run mobile health clinics. Cash said the city's authority came
from a 1999 amendment that exempts governmental a! gencies from the section
of state law that criminalizes needle and syringe possession.
Blitz reviewed the law and determined it allows government agencies to
distribute needles and syringes only to those with a prescription.
"There is no authority for programs to place needles and syringes in the
hands of people addicted to heroin," Blitz said Tuesday. "This is a program
that has to be considered by the Legislature."
Blitz notified Atlantic City officials of his decision with a phone call and
a letter dated April 30. Both Blitz and Atlantic City Solicitor Beverly
Graham-Foy declined to release the letter; Graham-Foy would not even confirm
Blitz said his decision had nothing to do with the merits of needle-exchange
and declined to give his personal opinion on the issue.
"My job is to interpret the law," Blitz said. "Clearly, it's not authorized
Needle-exchange supporters disagree. Temple University professor ! Scott
Burris, who has published more than a dozen articles on syringe- access law,
said the 1999 amendment clearly exempts local governments such as Atlantic
"I'd be happy to be their lawyer," Burris said. "You never know, 100
percent, what a court is going to do. But I think the city has an extremely
Burris advised the city of Philadelphia when it set up a needle-exchange
program under an emergency order from then-Mayor Ed Rendell. Pennsylvania
and New Jersey are two of five states that do not allow the sale of needles
or syringes without a prescription. All but New Jersey and Delaware allow
needle exchange in their cities.
Shared needles are the cause of more than half of the AIDS and HIV cases in
Atlantic City, where the HIV rate among black males is the highest in the
state. Across New Jersey, 46 percent of HIV infections stem from shared
needles, the third-highest percentage in the nation, according to the state
Health Department. The national average is 25 percent.
Most studies show - and m! ost experts agree - needle-exchange reduces the
spread of HIV and AIDS without leading to an increase in drug use.
Gov. James E. McGreevey expressed support for a hospital-based
needle-exchange program when he took office, but he kept silent last year
when a bill legalizing the sale and possession of needles was withdrawn amid
opposition from Attorney General Peter Harvey and state senators from Newark
and Ocean County.
Harvey said he was concerned about how such a program would be run. State
Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Newark, and State Sen. Leonard Connors, R-Ocean, said
the programs are not effective and send the wrong message in the war against
Needle-exchange supporters are skeptical about the chances of getting
McGreevey to sign a needle-exchange law before the 2005 election.
To e-mail Pete McAleer at The Press:
PMcAleer at pressofac.com
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