The Westport, Mass., board of selectmen voted 3-2 to last week overturn its own decision to set up a needle-exchange program for intravenous-drug users. This reversal came just three days after the board's unanimous vote to allow the program. The special meeting Thursday drew so many angry residents, it had to be held outdoors in the rain. Opponents of the exchange fear it would bring drug addicts and crime to the town of 14,000.
"I want to begin my statement by apologizing to the residents of the town for not appreciating in advance the firestorm that my vote would create," board chairwoman Elizabeth Collins said. Boos and calls to resign interrupted the statements of board members who sought to explain their earlier vote for the program. Collins and David Dionne stuck with their initial decisions to back the exchange. During the meeting, a petition calling for the board's recall circulated through the crowd of 300.
Westport's neighboring towns, Fall River and New Bedford, have both rejected needle-exchange programs in spite of having epidemics of HIV and drug use. Only four Massachusetts communities--Boston, Cambridge, Northampton, and Provincetown--operate needle exchanges. (AP)