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Local and Community News

California Needle Exchange Plans in Jeopardy

February 13, 2003

While acknowledging needle exchanges for intravenous drug users save lives, Contra Costa County, Calif., supervisors on Tuesday declined to allocate money to salvage the county's depleted program. The Health Services Department will continue providing syringes until a board committee decides if it can help the exchange in ways other than financial. The program has lost its office space and paid staff, and it will have to discontinue operations once the needles run out, said Bobby Bowens, executive director of Community Health Empowerment/Exchange Works. The private agency administers the program, relying on grants and a $25,000 annual county donation.

With the money spent and new grant prospects slim, agency officials had hoped supervisors would offer more. Supervisors said they would not be able to promise more money before budget hearings begin this spring. Even then, the competition among preventive health programs for scarce general fund dollars will be fierce, said Supervisor Mark DeSaulnier.

More than a quarter of Contra Costa residents living with AIDS contracted the illness from sharing needles, said Health Director Dr. William Walker. The county exchange provides more than 35,000 clean needles each month to about 700 IDUs in Richmond, North Richmond, Pittsburg and Bay Point.

Supervisors Federal Glover and John Gioia will explore ways to support the exchange. What the program needs now is cash, Bowens said, but Gioia offered little hope of that. Supervisors' options are limited. County officials are not allowed to use state or federal dollars to pay for needle exchanges. Contra Costa's $1.3 million AIDS prevention program is also staring at an uncertain future. Most of the money comes directly from California's general fund, which Gov. Gray Davis will likely raid to overcome a huge budget gap, said Public Health Director Wendel Brunner. "We're frankly quite anxious for what's going to happen next fiscal year," he said.

Back to other CDC news for February 13, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Contra Costa Times
02.12.03; 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.
 

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