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Local and Community News

California: Needle Plan Feels Pinch of Budget

March 5, 2003

A committee of the Board of Supervisors rejected a plan Monday that would have saved, but gutted, needle exchange activities in Contra Costa County. The Health Services Department suggested dropping the private agency that offers the service and eliminating needle exchanges altogether in East County.

The idea angered Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg, who sits on the board's Family and Human Services Committee. Many IV drug users in his district are homeless and would not be able to travel to West County to receive the possibly life-saving service, he said. "It is absolutely not an option to shut East County down," he said. "We need to look for some more creative solutions."

In Contra Costa, Community Health Empowerment-Exchange Works provides more than 35,000 clean needles each month to drug users in Richmond, North Richmond, Pittsburg and Bay Point. The agency receives most of its money from private foundations, and Contra Costa contributes about $25,000 annually.

Last month, agency officials told supervisors they had run out of money and were in imminent danger of shutting down. To maintain its existing level of service, the agency would need supervisors to contribute $186,240 annually from the county's general fund.

Public Health Director Dr. Wendel Brunner acknowledged that the program is effective and the agency does an excellent job. However, given the county's budget crunch, the money would have to come at the expense of another deserving program, he said.

To keep the exchange afloat, Brunner suggested offering a scaled-back version in West County through Contra Costa's Health on Wheels van. The Health Department would increase its needle investment to $40,000 under the plan.

The committee directed Brunner to bring new funding strategies to the full board in two weeks. Meanwhile, the needle exchange is staying afloat thanks to needles the county is providing as an interim measure, agency Executive Director Bobby Bowens said.

Back to other CDC news for March 5, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Contra Costa Times
03.04.03; Peter Felsenfeld

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.