Pubdate: Tue, 05 Jun 2001
Source: Union-News (MA)
Copyright: 2001 Union-News
Author: David Reid
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


HOLYOKE   -   The sponsor of a measure calling for approval of a 
needle-exchange program in the city said last night he will seek to 
table the order when it comes up at tonight's City Council meeting.

Ward 2 City Councilor Diosdado Lopez said he wants more time for 
councilors to investigate a needle-exchange program in Northampton 
and to allow a nonprofit agency to propose a program here.

"I'd rather see a specific program come forward," Lopez said.

Last month, the Board of Health voted 3-0 to recommend the council OK 
a needle-exchange program to help the fight against the HIV virus and 
AIDS. State data show both are at epidemic levels in the city.

During a public hearing held by the council's Public Safety Committee 
last month, several people said that dirty syringes are putting 
heroin users at risk, as well as those with whom the users have 
unprotected sex.

In Springfield last night, City Councilor Timothy J. Rooke asked the 
council to go on record once again as being opposed to a needle 
exchange program, but his resolution failed in a tie vote.

The council previously rejected the needle program in 1996 and 1998, 
and Rooke sought another vote in response to a recent request for 
reconsideration by the Springfield Alliance for Needle Exchange. 
Council President Angelo J. Puppolo Jr., who opposes the needle 
program, said be believes the 4-4 tie vote sends the message that 
other options need to be explored. Councilor Daniel D. Kelly, a 
program opponent, was absent due to illness.

Opponents in Holyoke, including several city councilors, say the 
program here would not help, and would draw drug users and dealers to 
the city, making matters worse.

One opponent, City Councilor at large Kevin A. Jourdain, has filed an 
order asking the council to put the issue before voters on the Nov. 6 

"I think we should hear from the citizens," Jourdain said yesterday.

Since this is a local election year, he said, voters would be able to 
listen to arguments on the issue from elected officials and their 

"It would raise the consciousness on the issue," he said.

Ward 6 Councilor Mark A. Lubold, a proponent of the needle-exchange 
program, has filed another order asking the council to urge state 
lawmakers to fund more drug treatment beds.

Lubold said yesterday that at one public hearing both those against 
and for a syringe-exchange program here acknowledged a critical lack 
of publicly funded in-patient beds for those seeking heroin addiction 

As for Lopez's desire to postpone a vote tonight, Lubold said he 
favors tabling the needle-exchange measure to let councilors visit 
the Northampton program, which is downtown.

Northampton Police Chief Russell P. Sienkiewicz has said there have 
been no incidents related to the program since its inception in 1995.

And Timothy W. Purington, a Holyoke resident who runs the Northampton 
program, said about 28,645 dirty syringes were taken out of 
circulation there last year.

City Councilor at large James M. Leahy has filed another order that 
would ask the Board of Health to produce pamphlets in English and 
Spanish showing the risks of dirty syringes, telling where they can 
be safely disposed of, and providing information on treatment and 
counseling services.

Lopez said he will offer to table his measure when it comes up 
tonight as part of the Public Safety Committee's report.

Mayor Michael J. Sullivan, as well as Police Chief Anthony R. Scott, 
have said they oppose the needle-exchange program here.

Sullivan said yesterday he would favor statewide needle-exchange 
programs, rather than singling out the city.
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