Pubdate: Tue, 05 Jun 2001
Source: Union-News (MA)
Copyright: 2001 Union-News
Author: Peter Goonan
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


SPRINGFIELD -- After defeating proposals to establish a needle exchange
program twice in the past five years, the City Council left the issue in
limbo last night on a tie vote that stalled any action but left the door
open for alternatives.

Councilor Timothy J. Rooke, a long-term opponent of providing clean
hypodermic needles to drug users to prevent the spread of disease, asked
the council to go on record once again as opposed.

But his resolution failed on a 4-4 vote.

The council previously rejected needle exchange in 1996 and 1998, and
Rooke sought a new, nonbinding vote in response to a recent request for
reconsideration by the Springfield Alliance for Needle Exchange (SANE).

Council President Angelo J. Puppolo Jr. said be believes the tie vote
sends the message that other options need to be explored. A majority of
the nine-member council remains opposed to the program, as Councilor
Daniel D. Kelly, an opponent, was absent last night due to illness.

Some representatives of SANE, however, applauded the vote because
Rooke's motion at least failed. Some opponents and supporters of the
needle program said they hope renewed discussion of the AIDS issue will
result from last night's dialogue. The needle program is aimed at
reducing the spread of AIDS by providing clean needles to drug users.

If Rooke's motion had passed, the council would have gone on record
opposed to the needle program, but in favor of drug treatment on demand
as well as education, a methadone clinic and homosexual "partner
notification" to reduce the spread of AIDS.

Councilors Domenic J. Sarno, Timothy J. Ryan, Rooke and Puppolo voted in
favor of Rooke's measure.

Sarno said, "The city needs an infusion of money. It has to start at the
federal and state level."

Councilors Carol J. Lewis Caulton, William T. Foley Jr., Brian A.
Santaniello and Bud L. Williams were opposed to the resolution.
Williams, however, said he continues to oppose the needle program.

In Holyoke, the City Council was scheduled to take up a measure tonight
that would set up a needle-exchange program there.

But the article's sponsor, Ward 2 Councilor Diosdado Lopez, said he will
ask councilors to table the measure until a specific program is
proposed, which would also give councilors a chance to visit a needle
exchange program in Northampton.

In Springfield, supporters urged city councilors to visit the
Northampton program. Such programs also exist in Boston, Cambridge and

Supporters told councilors last night there is extensive research that
backs the success of needle exchange, but Rooke and other opponents
countered by saying they remain unconvinced and believe other avenues
should be pursued, including more funding for drug treatment.

In other action last night, a proposal for the council to urge the mayor
to contractually require longer hours at the library branches was
referred to committee.

The proposal, sponsored by Councilor Lewis-Caulton, sought more hours
after school and on Saturdays and was strongly supported by the Pioneer
Valley Project, a citizen action group, which says the extra hours are
needed especially for the children. Some councilors said the resolution
seemed too restrictive. Representatives of the Springfield Library and
Museums Association have said they are prevented from such an increase
in hours by budget constraints.
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