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Politics Kills: Clean Needle Exchanges Blocked in N.J.

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Everybody put your hands together for Star-Ledger columnist, Tom Moran, who reminds us that needle exchange programs for drug addicts, which have been used successfully for two decades now all over the country, continue to be blocked in New Jersey for reasons that run the gamut from incoherent to disgraceful. Truly, neither party has covered itself with glory on this issue.

Back in 1996, when she was still considered an up-and-comer in Republican politics, Gov. Christie Whitman rejected her own advisory panel’s findings which showed that needle-exchange programs significantly reduced the spread of AIDS among addicts without increasing drug use and declared that needle programs represented state approval of drug use. Attorney General Peter G. Verniero obligingly cooked up a study that disputed the effectiveness of the programs, using among its sources bogus data from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing moonbat roost that advocated conversion to Christianity as the way to cure drug addiction. Meanwhile, the rate of injection-drug use in New Jersey, particularly in the suburbs and rural areas, grew steadily during Whitman’s administration. (The Dogwood Center, a Princeton-based advocacy group, has plenty of information about this subject.)

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bret Schundler followed Whitman’s example, stoutly insisting that needle exchanges wouldn’t work, even though his Jersey City home base was among the most HIV-ravaged cities in the country and sorely needed this vital public health measure. Somewhere in the Star-Ledger’s archives is a Schundler candidate interview conducted by the late, sorely missed John McLaughlin, who forcefully challenged Schundler on the issue but might as well have been talking to a brick wall.

But what are we to think of state Senate President Richard Codey who continues to let a bill to establish pilot programs in three cities be held up in the Senate health committee, which is chaired by a raving opponent of the programs, Newark-based Democrat Ronald Rice. Codey could order the proposal shifted to another committee, Moran says, but he worries about flouting Senate protocols.

And while this dithering and maneuvering goes on, people are dying. But as Morgan demonstrates, they’re the kind of people nobody likes anyway — and besides, they don’t vote.

On the other hand, we do. Maybe it’s time for voters like us to move this issue back into the spotlight.

About Steven Hart

  • http://healthreports.blogspot.com Howard Dratch

    Come now, we all know that a culture of vengeance cannot allow people to do whatever they need to do merely because lives will be saved.

    The right-to-lifers support the death penalty, the anti-drug forces support the proliferation of AIDS, the anti-sex education forces prefer pregnant children to informed children. How can we expect New Jersey to support the logical and compassionate approach to fighting a deadly disease?

    Right-wing voters will cry rivers to think that a few cents for a syringe might keep their families safer from AIDS. After all, viruses don’t respect class lines. They don’t even stay on their own side of the tracks.

  • http://lostsupermarket.blogspot.com/ Sean

    I live in New Jersey. New Jersey is as democratic as a state can be. Howard, you are right that Repbulicans in NJ are not supproting these efforts, but where are your bilious comments directed towards New Jersey’s democrats, who control the legislature and the statehouse?

  • http://healthreports.blogspot.com Howard Dratch

    Sean. Perhaps you should delineate who is and is not providing support for a reasonably humane method of providing supplies that would slow the spread of disease. If, indeed, there are Democrats looking to change the course of vengeful anti-drug policies; they should certainly be singled out for kudos.

    NJ may or may not be “as democratic as a state can be” but we do expect more from a more sophisticated and educated state such as NJ than, say, Mississippi or Florida.

    My comments (not really bilious, merely disappointed in the anti-drug hysteria) were directed at the general attitude that because some people feel some action is morally wrong that they should be relegated to illness, pain and death to teach them a lesson.

    If the Democrats in some states, like NJ, are coming out of their closets to fight for access to needles, decriminalization, or massive efforts to help not castigate; then bravissimo for New Jersey.

  • RedTard

    I missed that part in the constitution where it requires that every person shall support the drug habit of his neighbor. More liberal nonsense being thrust upon everyone.

    There is no reason I should be forced to buy a needle for a guy on the street who is doing drugs. Adding the government into that equation does not change it whatsoever except in the mind of the liberal leftwing nannystate control freaks.

    If it really is that important to you, get all the hypocritical assholes together at places like the daily Kos and moveon.org and fund your own needle exchange. Of course, you would never consider that, this isn’t about the actual programs it’s about using the government to silence and control those you disagree with.

  • http://www.theopinionmill.com Steven Hart

    As a simple matter of cost-benefit analysis, I would think that the value of using clean needles to prevent the spread of major diseases among drug-users and their families, thereby heading off threats to the public health and preventing a drain on social-support services, would be self-evident.

    Thank your for providing the short-sighted blowhard perspective that was missing from this comments field.

    this isn’t about the actual programs it’s about using the government to silence and control those you disagree with.

    Sure, Tard. The needle exchange program is all about keeping you quiet. Next time the Cassini-Huygens probe orbits past, you be sure to wave at one of the cameras, okay?

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Can I get the gov to give me say…I dunno…a lid a week maybe?

  • RedTard

    “Thank your for providing the short-sighted blowhard perspective that was missing from this comments field.”

    The truth bothers you that bad then. I ask you then hypocrite, how many dollars have you donated to needle exchange programs this year? It’s such a vital program with poor innocent human lives at stake, surely you must have donated. Please feel free to round off to the nearest hundred.

  • http://www.theopinionmill.com Steven Hart

    Oh, Tard, this is such high school stuff you’re throwing around. If I had to help fund every public-health project that’s been crippled by politics, I’d hardly have anything left. The point is, you either prevent the problem, cheaply, or you deal with its consequences, expensively. Focus on getting your brain around that.

  • RedTard

    “If I had to help fund every public-health project that’s been crippled by politics, I’d hardly have anything left.”

    Good point, you already do and most of the middle class is saying the same thing. Anyway, if the life of a drug addict does not warrant you personally donating money to the cause then why do you feel the need to use the government to force everyone to give to it?

    I understand cost benefit but I also understand that some things are not valued in dollars. A human life is one and freedom is another. If some people do not want to provide free needles to addicts because they feel it enables their addiction then they should not have to. That is their decision.

    Cost benefit analysis would tell you it would be cheaper to throw most poor people with HIV, or drug addicts, or the homeless into an incinerator, we don’t do this because it is wrong. I feel making people pay for or do something they vehemently disagree with is wrong as well.

  • http://www.theopinionmill.com Steven Hart

    I feel making people pay for or do something they vehemently disagree with is wrong as well.

    You mean I get a line-item veto on the way my tax monies are used? When did that happen? Sign me up!

    You pay the negligible cost of a needle exchange program because you don’t write off human beings as garbage simply because they got snagged by drug addiction. You do it because a lot of them have families whose futures will be directly affected. You do it because a lot of them are genuinely trying to clean up, and it’s worth it to keep them from contracting HIV while they’re doing it.

    You do it because it works everywhere else in the country, and it would work in New Jersey as well, if political malfeasnce on both sides of the aisle didn’t stand in the way.

  • RedTard

    “You mean I get a line-item veto on the way my tax monies are used?”

    That would bring our government back to a reasonable size in a hurry. We would have alot better chance of funding a needle exchange than the Iraq war though.

    With modern computers an idea like that might be able to be implemented. Legislators could put the first 80% in the budget towards the big ticket items then the people could treat the remaining 20% of their taxes as discretionary funding and check where they wanted it spent on on their tax form. The choices would be limited in number and chosen by the legislature during the budget process. I think people would feel more satisfied with government knowing they had a little control over where their dollar was going. Some could feel good that they cut the legs off of faith based inititatives, others could tell the needle buyers to screw off.

  • RedTard

    Right now we have two very lame choices for our tax dollar:

    A) Turn your money over to corrupt republicans who hand it to corporations who finance their reelection

    or

    B) Hand it to democrats who redistribute it wastefully to key voting blocs in order to buy votes for reelection.

  • http://healthreports.blogspot.com Howard Dratch

    Here is a great compromise. Use the Mexican model where people cannot always afford to run to a doctor to get a little piece of script in order to buy medications. They also have (and it is coming to a family near you in the US with the proliferation of fast food joints) a lot of diabetes.

    Therefore pharmacies have displays of syringes. They cost about $.45 or $.50 each. Allow that in the US and almost everyone can afford the little plastic things thereby keeping our “tax dollars” (or half-dollars) from being wasted on “liberal nonsense”.

    People with diabetes would be helped.

    People not yet infected with AIDS would be helped.

    People not yet infected by people who are not yet infected would be helped. (And so on.)

    All for 50 cents or less. All because the anti-drug zealots used some common sense instead of venegeance.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    so…just a needle exchange program? No, rehab or anything? Why is it always something for nothing??? Why do only the fuckups get the freebies???

  • http://www.tresbleu/blogspot.com Sister Ray

    Would you be allowed to smoke a cigarette while waiting in line for your free needle?

  • http://www.theopinionmill.com Steven Hart

    Give it a try, Sister Ray, and report back with your findings.