Pubdate: Tue, 06 Apr 2004
Source: Times Leader (PA)
Copyright: 2004 The Times Leader
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- A city councilor whose vote helped defeat a city 
needle exchange program six years ago now says he backs the proposal and 
will reintroduce it to the council.

City Councilor Bud L. Williams had initially supported a needle exchange in 
1998. But after a referendum showed voter opposition to the plan, he 
changed his mind, resulting in a 5-4 vote to defeat the proposal.

Now, Williams said he has changed his mind again, and will reintroduce the 
plan to the city council.

"I am not supporting drug use, I want to make that clear, but I just feel 
we have to exhaust all possibilities," he told The Republican newspaper of 
Springfield. "If you can save one person, it's worth it. I've said it many 

The City Council Committee on Civil Rights and Race Relations, which 
Williams chairs, planned to discuss needle exchanges on Monday at City Hall.

Needle exchanges provide clean syringes to addicts who inject drugs 
intravenously. Advocates say distributing clean needles helps prevent the 
spread of AIDS. Opponents say it encourages illegal drug use.

In Massachusetts, it is illegal to have a hypodermic needle or syringe 
without a prescription. The Legislature amended that law in 1993 to allow 
pilot needle exchange programs in Boston, Cambridge, Northampton and 

Helen R. Caulton-Harris, director of Springfield's Health and Human 
Services Department, said needle exchanges can help fight AIDS.

"Needle exchange should be administered as a part of a comprehensive 
opportunity to educate," she said. "We shouldn't see needle exchange by 
itself as a panacea to solve the HIV problem in the city of Springfield."

Six people in every 1,000 in Springfield were infected with HIV or AIDS as 
of January. That's up slightly from 5.5 per 1,000 in July 1992, she said. 
Of those, 44 percent reported injecting drugs, Caulton-Harris said.

Mayor Charles V. Ryan said he opposes such programs because they run 
counter to drug prevention efforts and because of potential liability for 
the city.
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