May 11, 2004
Under a bill approved 43-27 Monday by the California Assembly, cities and counties would no longer have to declare an emergency before starting a needle exchange, and those with exchanges would no longer have to review the programs every 14 days. Pending approval by the Senate and a sign-off from the governor, the bill, AB2871, would let the 14 local jurisdictions that run exchanges decide how to monitor their programs, said Assemblymember Patti Berg (D-Sebastopol), who authored the legislation. "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 Assemblymember Keith Richman (R-Chatsworth), 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," said Richman.
"We shouldn't be in the business of giving away syringes and drug paraphernalia," countered Assemblymember Ray Haynes (R- Murrieta), 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.