Opinion: The Needle Exchange Debate


For those working to achieve sensible public-health policies in New Jersey, two important questions await answers in the waning days of 2011.

Question 1: The Legislature completed action last week on a bill to allow pharmacies to sell up to 10 hypodermic needles to adults without a prescription. By enabling intravenous drug addicts to obtain clean syringes, the measure would reduce the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases. Will Gov. Chris Christie sign it into law? As of this writing, his administration says only that the bill “will get careful review and consideration.”

Question 2: The state Department of Health has promised to deliver a final report this month on the results of demonstration programs in Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Atlantic City and Camden through which addicts can bring their dirty needles to supervised clinics and receive clean ones in exchange, along with a strong pitch for drug treatment. Will the report be positive, which would allow authorization for the program to continue?

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