New Jersey: Praise for Drug Program
March 18, 2009
Since it began more than a year ago, Paterson's needle-exchange program has helped more than 150 injection drug users seek treatment and cut down on drug-related public nuisances, city and NEP officials said. Three days a week, IDUs can visit the NEP and swap out used needles for sterile ones in order to prevent blood-borne infections.
NEP clients come from many surrounding jurisdictions, and six arrests have been made in other municipalities for carrying drug paraphernalia, even when IDUs showed their city of Paterson Syringe Access Program identification cards, which state that users have a right to carry the needles. In all six cases, charges were eventually dropped.
In 2007, the Legislature approved pilot NEPs for four cities. The state Department of Human Services provided $10 million to the cities to establish mobile treatment units. But lack of direct state funding of the NEPs is an obstacle to reaching more IDUs, officials with the Paterson exchange said.
In May, the state Department of Health and Senior Services will present to the Legislature and governor first-year results of a study to determine the efficacy of the NEPs in preventing blood-borne infections. At Paterson's NEP, clients are regularly surveyed anonymously about their risk behaviors and asked how many other IDUs they might be providing with clean needles.
The Record (Bergen County)
03.12.2009; Meredith Mandell