Pubdate: Tue, 07 Dec 2004
Source: Herald News, The (Fall River, MA)
Copyright: 2004 The Herald News
Website: ald
Author: Will Richmond, Herald News Staff Reporter
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


FALL RIVER -- With another Massachusetts city discussing the merits of
needle exchange programs, the debate over creating a similar program
here continues.

Monday night, the agenda for the Springfield City Council's meeting
included a discussion on implementing a pilot needle exchange program
that would include a caveat: Those who participate in the program
would be subject to mandatory drug testing.

Currently, the only communities in the state that offer a needle
exchange program are Boston, Cambridge, Provincetown and

Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr., a longtime opponent of needle exchange
programs, will continue to fight the idea on the homefront.

"I don't support them for Fall River," Lambert said. "It's a subject
that had some limited debate six or seven years ago, but my position
has not changed."

Lambert said that several times people have approached him with new
information on public needle exchanges and that he remains "open
minded" about the idea, but in the end he feels it is a bad one.

"It's an enabling program," Lambert said. "There are even advocates in
the field that don't support this."

On Lambert's side is Michael J. Coughlin, director of Fall River's
Department of Health and Human Services. Coughlin says that for a
needle exchange program to work, it has to have wide-ranging community

"In a community that is ready to deal with a needle exchange program,
it can be effective, but the entire community needs to be behind it,"
Coughlin said.

Then there are those who disagree with Lambert.

Nancy Paull, executive director for the Greater Fall River HIV/AIDS
Consortium, said a needle exchange program is "absolutely necessary"
for Fall River.

"We need to stop the spread of HIV to high-risk populations," Paull
said. "Needle exchange programs are highly effective. They've been
proven effective in England and many other countries."

While she is for the implementation of an exchange program, Paull said
it would be too costly to include mandatory drug testing. She suggests
participants be inspected for track marks or other visible signs of
needle use.

Coughlin agreed that mandatory testing of needle exchange participants
is unnecessary.

"I don't even understand the practicality of it," Coughlin said,
adding that there are less costly ways to determine if someone is an
active drug user.

Regardless of how a needle exchange is conducted, Paull said, Fall
River would be better off with one.

"There is no debate. This would help to stop the spread of disease,"
she said. "It's ridiculous. The bottom line is people are addicted and
we need to have a needle exchange."

Numbers from the Consortium show that needle use is a major factor in
the transmission of HIV. About 75 percent of all new HIV cases in Fall
River can be traced to injection use, and 45 percent of those
receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS transmitted the disease directly from
needle injections, according to Consortium figures.
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