Pubdate: Wed, 15 Dec 1999
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 1999 San Francisco Chronicle
Page: A22


The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously yesterday to
approve a plan for providing free needles to drug addicts.

The decision to declare a countywide health emergency for AIDS and
hepatitis C allows the county to provide support for an existing
needle-exchange program called Exchange Works.

The nonprofit Exchange Works has been operating illegally since 1995,
handing out clean needles in Richmond and North Richmond. The board's vote
decriminalizes the group's activities and allows the county to put its own
resources behind the effort.

The program exchanges about 5,000 needles per week at two sites at an
average cost of $26,000 a year. It is funded through a variety of small

Public health officials said their staff would begin working with Exchange
Works volunteers during the next two weeks.

The supervisors directed members of the county staff to report back in six
months on how successful the program has been in helping get addicts off
drugs and into treatment programs.

While several people spoke in support of the board's decision, others
voiced strong opposition to the plan.

``Needle-exchange programs wreck communities,'' said Mike Arata of Danville.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart