Under a bill approved by a 43-27 vote Monday by the California assembly, cities and counties would no longer have to declare an emergency before starting a needle-exchange program, and those with exchanges would no longer have to review the programs every 14 days. Pending approval by the state senate and a sign-off from the governor, the bill would let the 14 local jurisdictions that run exchanges decide how to monitor their programs, said assemblywoman Patti Berg. "This is a public health crisis that we can positively influence," Berg said.
Needle-exchange programs have proven to be "very effective in reducing HIV/AIDS transmission, different types of hepatitis" and do not increase drug use, said assemblyman Keith Richman, a physician. "It will make it administratively easier for counties and cities to run these needle-exchange programs. It has a public health benefit for our state," he said.
"We shouldn't be in the business of giving away syringes and drug paraphernalia," countered assemblyman Ray Haynes, who said the bill enabled and encouraged drug users to remain addicted. "That's not what our government should be doing." Haynes' attempt to require that counties and cities fully fund public safety prior to needle exchanges was rejected. (AP)