Pubdate: Fri, 09 Jun 2006
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2006 Record Searchlight - The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Tim Hearden
Bookmark: (Hepatitis)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


Physicians: Exchange Plan Could Help To Reduce HIV, Hepatitis Cases In County

Physicians are criticizing Shasta County supervisors' rejection this 
week of a needle exchange program requested by the Department of Public Health.

Dr. Ron Reece, past president of the North Valley Medical 
Association, said the supervisors "missed an opportunity" to reduce 
the spread of hepatitis and HIV and try to rescue drug users from 
their addictions.

"I was disappointed," Reece said of the board's 3-2 vote Tuesday to 
reject a needle exchange as well as a plan to allow pharmacists to 
sell needles without a prescription.

"I just hope this comes back on the agenda again," Reece said Thursday.

Dr. Sutton Menezes, who coordinates care of infectious diseases at 
Mercy and Shasta Regional medical centers, agreed.

"I see very intimately on a day-to-day basis, the devastating impact 
of hepatitis C," Menezes said. "I actually know some health care 
workers who have contracted hepatitis C from a workplace needle 
exposure. Getting this needle exchange program would benefit 
everyone, including the people who are just trying to do a good job 
out there every day."

Public health officials had argued the cost of treating diseases 
caused by accidental needle sticks and the sharing of dirty syringes 
is significant. They said the plan would help dispose of the 
estimated 1 million to 2 million needles and lancets used outside of 
the medical system each year.

Supervisor Glenn Hawes' motion in support of the plan aimed at 
curbing the spread of hepatitis and HIV died for lack of a second. 
Hawes backed Supervisor David Kehoe's proposal for a two-year trial, 
but board Chairwoman Trish Clarke and Supervisors Linda Hartman and 
Mark Cibula voted no.

Hartman said Thursday a needle exchange program would send the wrong 
message to youngsters.

"I really believe that doing a program like that would be enabling 
drug use, and I got involved in government because I wanted to 
continue to help this be a community I want to raise my children in," she said.

Hawes agreed that people shouldn't use illegal drugs "but they do it," he said.

"It's reality," he said Thursday. "So would you want your little kid 
out in a park to find a needle and get stuck accidentally? Not me. If 
I can get rid of those and actually save us money, then I'm there."

Board Chairwoman Clarke said at the meeting that she might support a 
needle exchange to take used syringes out of circulation, but opposed 
letting pharmacies sell needles.

County Administrative Officer Larry Lees and Public Health Officer 
Andrew Deckert said Thursday that officials haven't decided what, if 
any, new proposal to bring to the board.

"We're evaluating our options. It's too early to say," Deckert said. 
"What I was happily impressed with was the professionalism of the 
policy debate."
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