Pubdate: Tue, 21 Sep 2004
Source: Republican, The (MA)
Copyright: 2004 The Republican
Author: Buffy Spencer
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


SPRINGFIELD - City police are seeking warrants against the president
of Arise for Social Justice after a search at the group's Rifle Street
office yielded 380 unused hypodermic syringes, 62 hypodermic syringe
preparation kits and a medical container of used needles.

Capt. William Cochrane of the police Narcotics Bureau said it appeared
Arise had "set up its own unlicensed needle exchange program."

Arise, a private, nonprofit group, has been a proponent of needle
exchange programs as a way to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS by
drug addicts who share needles. Springfield has not opted to accept a
needle exchange program as Northampton and Hartford have.

Police are seeking warrants for unlicensed distribution of hypodermic
syringes for Arise president Michaelann C. Bewsee, 56, whose address
is listed on police paperwork as the same as the 94 Rifle St. office;
and agency member Tory Field, 28, whose address police said was 78
Williston Ave., Easthampton.

Bewsee said that she and Field are withholding comment upon advice of
legal counsel.

Show cause hearings have been scheduled in District Court for Oct. 1
for both women, Cochrane said.

Show cause hearings are usually in front of a magistrate and are
closed to the public. After hearing from both sides, the court decides
whether or not to issue a criminal complaint. If a complaint is
issued, prosecution on the charges begins.

Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett said he could not
comment until he reviews the police reports. He has previously spoken
against needle exchange programs, saying they pose complicated legal
questions and promote crime.

Cochrane said that after an investigation of several months, police
applied for a District Court search warrant for the Arise office. The
search warrant was executed Thursday by a team of narcotics officers
under the direction of Sgt. Kenneth Olson.

He said that officers found a small amount of marijuana in Field's
purse, and she is charged with possession of marijuana.

In addition to the unused needles and preparation kits, police found
dirty needles in a container used in medical practices for medical
waste and sharp objects, Cochrane said.

Bewsee is currently awaiting trial on other charges. Bewsee pleaded
innocent July 14 in District Court to charges of disorderly conduct,
assault and battery on a police officer and disturbing a lawful
assembly and is scheduled for trial Nov. 29.

She was arrested July 13 while insisting that a property being
auctioned by the city should be used for housing the homeless. Police
said that the charge alleges she pushed Officer Elizabeth Dasso, who
was in the hall trying to block her from going back into the City Hall
room where the auction was being held after Bewsee was taken out by

Arise members had participated in a demonstration here Aug. 2 to
protest the fact that legislation that would have given drug users
access to clean syringes without a prescription died in the Ways and
Means Committee of the state House of Representatives.

The local protest was organized by the Springfield Harm Reduction
Coalition, a group composed of 16 different organizations in the area
including Arise for Social Justice and the Drug Policy Forum of

State law gives local elected officials the power to adopt a state
Department of Public Health-run needle exchange program. Such programs
have been adopted in Boston, Cambridge and Provincetown in addition to

In 1998, the Springfield City Council voted against a measure that
would have established a needle exchange program here. City Councilor
Bud L. Williams, who at the time voted against the proposal, said this
summer that he will submit a plan for a needle exchange program to the
council by early October. He could not be reached yesterday.

Timothy J. Rooke, a city councilor opposed to needle exchange
programs, said he had heard rumors that exchanges have been in
existence for up to 10 years, but never heard of one linked to Arise.

He said that he is not a believer in needle exchange because a needle
"is only clean for the first person who uses it." He said in a typical
scenario three or four people may share a needle.

Springfield is fourth in rank statewide for the rate of HIV/AIDS
infection per 100,000 people. Its rate is 578 per 100,000 people and
the number of infected people is 879. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake