Source: Rocky Mountain News 6/27/97 Page 5A
Contact: Needleexchange program faces police resistance

Mayor Wellington Webb will ask the City Council to legalize needleexchange
programs next week, Denver's public health director said Thursday.

But the push will likely draw opposition from lawenforcement officials, who
fear needleexchange programs condone drug use and dilute antidrug efforts.

Dr. Frank Judson, director of public health, said the mayor will ask the
council during Tuesday's stateofthecity address to make needleexchange
program workers and participants exempt from an ordinance that prohibits
possession of intravenous needles.

Webb supported a resolution adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors this
week urging the U.S. government to let local public health officials use
federal dollars for needleexchange programs.

Advocates say needleexchange programs, which give drug addicts clean needles
in exchange for their used ones, slow the spread of AIDS and other diseases.

In February, the state board of health unanimously endorsed needleexchange

"I'm not convinced they are effective, but I am convinced they're not
harmful," Judson said.

Denver police and other Colorado lawenforcement agencies lobbied against a
bill legalizing the programs. State lawmakers killed the measure in February.

Denver police Chief David Michaud would not comment on the proposal.

Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter said he would be required to prosecute
people who violate state laws that prohibit possession of needles.

Ritter said he would not follow the lead of Boulder DA Alex Hunter, who does
not prosecute participants of the state's only open needleexchange program.

But Ritter said he would like to discuss the issue with Webb, Michaud and
other officials. "That's where I am today on this issue," said Ritter. "This
is not a dead end for me."

Small, informal underground groups already sponsor needleexchange programs,
said Paul Simons, executive director of PEERS, a nonprofit group that would
run a needle exchange for the city.

He said programs would be more effective if they were supervised by public
officials. Programs would be required to encourage clients to stop using

"Needle exchange is not a panacea," he said.

Simons' agency, which promotes AIDS awareness, would swap about 40 syringes a
week with every addict who comes forward. Private donors would pay for
needles for as many as 1,000 addicts at a cost of about $15,000 a year.


For more information call/write:

(People Engaged in Education and Reduction Strategies)
2701 Alcott Street
Suite 263/264
Denver, CO 80211
phone: (303) 4552472 
fax: (303) 4552548