Pubdate: Wed, 04 Jun 2003
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Page: B1
Copyright: 2003 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Farah Stockman, Globe Staff
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Every so often, the addicts hanging around the pool table complain about 
the heroin they buy on the streets near their South Boston hangout. It's 
too strong, they say. It feels different. It seems to overwhelm the 
methadone they take to fight the addiction.

So, in a testament to how easy it is to get heroin in Southie, at noon 
yesterday, Jon Stuen-Parker counted out 150 tiny white bags of the drug and 
walked down the street to the South Boston police station. "We're going to 
keep bringing it, even if we have to bring a pick-up truck, just to tell 
them, 'This is what's out there,' " said Stuen-Parker, founder of the 
National AIDS Brigade, who believes the heroin he's carrying has been cut 
with chemicals that make it even more lethal.

In recent years, few have paid attention to Stuen-Parker, a longtime 
activist. But yesterday's march to the police station hit a nerve in a 
neighborhood that has been gripped by heroin since the mid-1990s.

The neighborhood's heroin problem ranks as one of the worst in the city. 
Last year, officials at South Boston District Court counted six fatal 
overdoses, the lowest in four years. This year, in just five months, they 
say they have seen an increase.

Frustrations run high among commmunity leaders, who have tried everything 
from a drug court that pushes treatment, to investigations to catch 
criminals, to teenage addicts who visit schools to deter future users. Like 
most neighborhoods, South Boston is also divided over how to attack the 
heroin problem. Some favor tough-love punishment for addicts; others think 
the best way to help is to make using the drug safer while they wait for 
treatment to work.

Stuen-Parker, nicknamed "the clean needle guy," has long been a lightning 
rod in such debates. His publicity stunt yesterday brought attention to the 
fact that he has an office in Southie -- and prompted both outrage and 
applause within the neighborhood.

City Councilor James M. Kelly, who recently proposed holding public 
hearings on the rise of heroin use, called for police to investigate 
Stuen-Parker's group and to arrest him if they find he is distributing 
needles or carrying the drug.

"If they are doing it, I would vehemently oppose it," said Kelly, of South 
Boston. "I don't believe that the city should be enabling drug users. You 
don't fight a war on drugs by providing the tools for drug users to use." 
Stuen-Parker "thinks he's on the side of the angels," Kelly said. "But the 
fact of the matter is, what he is doing is illegal."

Maureen Harvey, a teacher's aide, saw it that way until she learned her son 
was addicted to heroin.

She said she liked much of what she heard a month ago when Stuen-Parker 
came to talk to the South Boston Family Resource Center, a support and 
advocacy group for parents of drug-addicted children.

"Kids are dying," said Harvey, whose son, now 27, has been hooked for five 
years. "I'd rather have him use a clean needle than get AIDS."

If yesterday's drug drop-off cleaved community opinion, it also divided 

Three recovering addicts who joined Stuen-Parker on yesterday's march said 
they have close relatives in law enforcement. The brother of one 
49-year-old addict works in the police drug unit in South Boston.

"I'm doing this for my nieces and nephews, so these drugs won't be around 
when they get older," said the man, who did not want to disclose his name.

Stuen-Parker said he orchestrated the drug drop-off to spur police to 
analyze street drugs he says are being made deadlier by dealers in New York.

He said he thinks they are being cut with lidocaine and procaine, two local 
anesthetics. But health officials said there is no evidence those chemicals 
would block life-saving methadone treatment or boost the power of the drug.

Years ago, a drug drop-off like yesterday's would have ranked among the 
tamest of Stuen-Parker's publicity stunts. He has been arrested for dumping 
dirty needles on City Hall, chaining himself to drug laboratories, and 
passing out clean needles to stem the spread of AIDS -- even though the 
Boston Public Health Commission is the only entity that can legally run a 
local needle exchange program. He has also been credited with saving lives, 
by calling attention to batches of tainted drugs that were killing users.

For the last five years, he has been quietly operating a drop-in center for 
veterans with AIDS from an unmarked storefront office on West Broadway. A 
sign that reads "No needle exchange" hangs in the doorway. Stuen-Parker, 
who says he only distributes clean needles from his South Boston home and 
his car, says that the location is for "AIDS prevention work."

The office has never generated any complaints, said South Boston police 
Captain Robert Cunningham, and he only learned about Stuen-Parker's group 

"There are never any calls from there," Cunningham said, adding that police 
only analyze drugs related to court cases. "He came as a publicity stunt, 
in my opinion. If he really wants to help us out, he can just come down and 
talk to us."
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