Three Lawmakers Move to Stall NJ Cities
Trenton--In response to news that Senators Ron Rice, Thomas Kane, Jr., and Assemblyman Joseph Pennacchio plan to proceed with a lawsuit to challenge former Governor McGreevey's executive order allowing for three municipally run syringe exchange programs in New Jersey, supporters of syringe access declared that the move would lead to more lost lives from injection-related HIV and hepatitis C.
"People will die as a result of this litigation," said Roseanne Scotti, Director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. "Everyday 5 more people in New Jersey are infected with HIV, and almost half those infections result from the sharing of dirty needles. Atlantic City and Camden are ready to move forward with their programs. More delay equals more death."
In October, after legislation to allow syringe access programs passed the Assembly but stalled in the Senate, former Governor McGreevey declared a public health emergency and issued an executive order to allow three municipalities to establish syringe exchange programs. Camden and Atlantic City had already passed ordinances to create such programs, and were named as two of the cities that would be allowed to begin running them.
Atlantic City Director of Health and Human Service Ronald Cash was appalled at the news. "It amazes me that these legislators are so determined to stop programs that will save lives," said Cash. "The issues in Atlantic City are so important and so vital, and someone who is not connected to this community should not be able to prevent us from protecting the health and safety of our own people."
In response to the three legislators' claim that there was not a public health emergency meriting the establishment of the programs, Roseanne Scotti expressed amazement. "We've lost more than 15,000 people to injection-related AIDS. That is five times the number of people who died in the World Trade Center attacks. If that is not an emergency, nothing is." New Jersey has the highest proportion of women infected with HIV in the nation, the 3rd highest number of pediatric HIV cases, the 5th highest number of adult HIV cases, and a rate of HIV infection related to sharing of dirty needles that is twice the national average. Every scientific and medical group to study the issue has concluded that sterile syringe access reduces the spread of HIV and hepatitis C and does not increase drug use.