Pubdate: Tue, 29 Jun 1999
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Author: Paola Totaro


A needle exchange in Ashfield is to be closed after eight years operation in
the wake of a concerted campaign to shut it down by the local Mayor, Labor
Councillor Mark Bonanno, whose daughter attends a nearby school.

The State Government yesterday promised to provide a mobile van to continue
the needle and syringe program if the council can find an appropriate

But Cr Bonanno last night said the council would not provide locations for
the mobile unit as this was a Department of Health responsibility.

The needle exchange operated as part of the Charlotte Street Community
Health Centre, which was set up in 1991 under the previous Coalition
government. It provided needles for about 40 clients each day and its
location was not widely known.

But, during the past few months Cr Bonanno, nearby residents and parents
have led a concerted campaign to close it down. They say it is too close to
St Vincent's Primary School. Cr Bonanno's daughter, Lucille, began school
this year.

The school's principal is understood to have discovered syringes in the
playground earlier this year. Since then a twice-daily patrol and inspection
has been carried out.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Health, Mr Knowles, said since then no
syringes had been found. However an urgent meeting, called by the council,
was held between the school's principal, local parents, Cr Bonanno, and
Department of Health officials last week. "The department is proposing a
mobile service instead, with the provision that it must not be within 200
metres of a school, church, retirement home or child-care facility," the
spokeswoman said yesterday.

The National Health and Medical Research Council yesterday approved
publication of the first comprehensive summary of Australian research into
illicit drugs, which also helps identify the three projects to receive
funding from the Federal Government's Illicit Drugs Strategy.

It will be available on

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