Pubdate: Sun, 13 Oct 2002
Source: Oakland Tribune, The (CA)
Copyright: 2002 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers
Author: Laura Casey
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Hepatitis)


Critics Of Planned Action Say HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis C Will Spread With 
Targeting Of Centers For Intravenous Drug Users

OAKLAND -- A controversial new zoning law that would make it harder for 
hypodermic needle exchange programs to set up shop in Oakland is on a 
fast-track for approval.

The new law, which not only targets exchange programs but also drug 
treatment centers that serve intravenous drug users, will go before the 
City Council for approval Tuesday night.

If passed, many of the city's drug treatment programs will have to jump 
several bureaucratic hurdles to serve their often poor and ill clients. 
Those hurdles include applying and paying for a new special use permit even 
if they do not offer needle exchange programs.

Supporters of the new law say it will prevent drug treatment and needle 
exchange programs from overpopulating certain neighborhoods. The new law 
would prevent drug treatment programs from operating within a certain 
distance of each other, and also schools and churches.

Opponents of the law -- who were once vigorously active at city meetings 
but absent at Tuesday's Community and Economic Development Committee 
meeting -- say it will be harder for drug treatment programs to serve 
clients and pass out needles to slow the spread of HIV and hepatitis.

Maria Aguilar, program director for Alameda County's HIV Education and 
Prevention Unit, said 70 percent to 80 percent of all injection drug users 
tested are infected with Hepatitis C. Further, 30 percent of people 
suffering from AIDS in Alameda County are injection drug users.

"If people stopped sharing needles they are (not) going to transmit HIV or 
hepatitis through drug use."

The issue came up before council last year once neighbors learned the drug 
treatment center Casa Segura, which offers a needle exchange program among 
several other services, was moving to Foothill Boulevard.

Neighbors said their Eastmont neighborhood was overloaded with treatment 
programs and many believed the programs brought a bad element into their 
back yards.

The ordinance is the work of Councilmember Moses Mayne (Eastmont-Seminary), 
who will end his short career on the council in January after losing his 
seat in the March 5 election to Desley Brooks.

Councilmembers Dick Spees (Montclair-Laurel), Ignacio De La Fuente (San 
Antonio-Fruitvale) and Jane Brunner (North Oakland) supported the ordinance 
last week and forwarded the zoning change to the full council.

Nancy Nadel was the only person present to oppose the new law. She called 
it a "back door Band-Aid approach" to addressing serious drug abuse issues 
and programs that serve addicts in Oakland.

"This law is not going to protect any neighborhood from existing programs 
that are poorly run or new programs that will be poorly run," she said.

It will only make it more expensive for treatment programs to help Oakland 
people, she added.

Arnold Perkins, director of the Alameda County Public Health Department, 

"I think it's bad public policy ... because these people are not being 
imported from Stockton or Los Angeles," he said. "These are people who live 
in the community."

If services such as the nonprofit Casa Segura are discouraged from treating 
drug addicts, then the already overloaded county health department and the 
city would be forced to do the work, he said.

"It's going to affect services in the city ... and it's going to backfire," 
he said. "If we force all the Casa Seguras out then what is the county or 
the city going to do? Is Oakland going to run the Casa Seguras and, if so, 
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