Pubdate: Wed, 18 May 2005 Source: Associated Press (Wire) Copyright: 2005 Associated Press Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?143 (Hepatitis) Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?137 (Needle Exchange) CITY COUNCIL OPPOSES STATE-MANDATED NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAM On May 17, the Worcester City Council voted 8-3 to oppose a state Senate bill that would mandate needle-exchange programs across Massachusetts. The council passed a separate resolution explaining it was against the bill because it would remove local legislative control from the decisions involved in setting up the exchanges. "Local control is something that is so important to our democracy, but sometimes the folks at the state level in Boston take it for granted," said Councilor-at-Large Juan A. Gomez. "We don't need a big brother telling us what to do. We know better than the state as to what is better for our community." But Councilor-at Large Dennis L. Irish pointed out that the bill calls for the creation of community advisory boards that would address local issues prior to implementation of a needle-exchange program. "The issue is not needle exchange and drug users; it has to do with this city's high rates of HIV and hepatitis B and C," said Irish. "This is a problem that affects women and minorities disproportionately." Just four communities in Massachusetts operate needle-exchange programs - Boston, Cambridge, Northampton, and Provincetown. Worcester has twice voted down an exchange, most recently in 1999.