Pubdate: Tue, 19 Sep 2006
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2006 Record Searchlight - The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Tim Hearden, Record Searchlight
Bookmark: (Hepatitis)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Having failed in a 3-2 vote in June, the notion of offering needle 
exchanges in Shasta County will return to the Board of Supervisors today.

The county Department of Public Health is proposing a revised plan in 
which a syringe-exchange program would be started along with a public 
education campaign against illicit drug use.

Used syringes would be traded for new, sterile ones twice a week at 
the homeless outreach HOPE (Health Opportunities for People 
Everywhere) van, acting Public Health Director Donnell Ewert said. 
The van parks in front of the county health department on Breslauer Way.

"I think it's a more comprehensive proposal and it's one that gets to 
the fundamental concerns the supervisors had," Ewert said. "And it 
sends a clear message that nobody is condoning drug use."

In June, the board rejected a needle exchange that was tied to a plan 
to allow pharmacists to sell needles without a prescription. Board 
Chairwoman Trish Clarke and Supervisors Mark Cibula and Linda Hartman 
voted to scuttle the plan, while Supervisors David Kehoe and Glenn 
Hawes supported it.

The vote drew criticism from local physicians who asserted the county 
missed an opportunity to reduce the spread of hepatitis and HIV and 
to rescue drug users from their addictions.

Hartman said afterward that a needle-exchange program would send the 
wrong message to youngsters. Clarke said during the meeting she might 
support a needle exchange to take used syringes out of circulation, 
but opposed letting pharmacies sell needles.

Clarke said last week she's had several discussions with Ewert about 
the new proposal and that she might support it.

"Actually, he assured me we're getting needles off the street without 
just giving them the opportunity to buy 10 new needles" from a 
pharmacist, Clarke said. "I encourage using every way we have to get 
at this population and make sure they have an opportunity to get 
beyond this addiction."

The media campaign would warn residents of the risk of contracting 
hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV through injection drug use. The 
county also would train a community health advocate to be a substance 
abuse counselor who would screen and refer drug-addicted individuals 
to treatment.

Gov. Schwarzenegger last year signed a pair of bills enabling 
counties to offer syringe exchanges without declaring a health 
emergency. County Public Health officials have been considering an 
exchange program since the legislation passed.

County officials have argued the cost of treating diseases spread by 
accidental needle sticks is significant. Lifetime treatment costs for 
a person with HIV or AIDS is about $190,000, while chronic liver 
diseases caused by hepatitis B and C cost about $20,000 a year to 
treat, according to Public Health. Liver transplants resulting from 
hepatitis C average $300,000 each, according to the department.


If you're going

What: Shasta County Board of Supervisors

When: 9 a.m. today

Where: Shasta County Administration Center, board chambers, 1450 
Court St., Redding

Agenda includes: Agreement with the Professional Peace Officers 
Association; needle-exchange program

TV: 8:30 p.m. today, Community Access Channel 11
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman