Pubdate: Sun, 22 Sep 2002
Source: Buffalo News (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The Buffalo News


The agreement to delay a needle exchange program at a new center at 
Kensington and Bailey avenues was not a victory for the neighborhood, and 
certainly not a victory for the drug addicts who desperately need help.

Kaleida Health, which administers Project Reach, agreed to delay plans 
until project coordinators can better gauge public sentiment. If residents 
truly have the best interest of their neighborhood at heart, they will 
approve of the needle exchange program, which has helped decrease drug 
activity in other areas of the city, such as the West Side.

Project Reach is Kaleida's AIDS/HIV prevention program. It was to operate a 
needle exchange program in the Urban Services Center set to open at 3060 
Bailey Ave. University Council Member Betty Jean Grant endorsed the 
exchange program months ago. Critics of the program said no community input 
had been sought on this issue, at least not until a recent meeting at 
School 68 near the proposed site. However, officials have disputed that 
claim, pointing out that notices went out and an article on the program 
appeared in The News.

Now the program seems to be in peril over the objections of some residents. 
Parents at the meeting voiced concern that children would find needles 
while walking to and from schools. However, drug addicts are more likely to 
share needles and leave their disposables on the ground if they can't 
exchange them. More important, a needle exchange program draws addicts to 
treatment services the center will provide.

While we understand residents' concerns - certainly, a needle exchange 
program is not high on the wish list of most neighborhoods - these programs 
work. Needle exchange programs have shown to decrease drug activity around 
the area by bringing treatment providers in contact with addicts. In 
addition, program officials work with the Buffalo Police Department, said 
Project Reach Director Raymond Ganoe.

This would not be a case of drug addicts lined up around the block waiting 
for clean needles. Ganoe said there might be one or two people an hour 
seeking clean needles, and they would have access to counselors.

To their credit, critics of the needle exchange program said they do not 
have a problem with the overall objectives of AIDS education. The site will 
remain an AIDS education center, and more public meetings on needle 
exchanges will be held. No one can blame residents for wanting to be kept 
in the loop, and Grant needs to make sure that good lines of communication 
are kept open.

Grant said the criticism aimed at her for supporting the needle exchange 
program is politically motivated. And, in fact, there is some political bad 
blood here. The board of the Kensington-Bailey Area Planning Committee sued 
Grant and the City of Buffalo over operation of the Kensington-Bailey 
Community Center. The city eventually took control in April.

But politics is - or should be - beside the point here. This is a 
worthwhile program, and conflicts should be worked out for the good of the 
community. A needle exchange program has the potential to help those in 
need, while also enhancing the community by reducing the scourge of drug 
addiction itself.
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