The Jersey City, New Jersey, City Council Wednesday unanimously passed an ordinance allowing for the creation of a needle exchange program in the city. The move came after the city hesitated earlier this year because Mayor Jeremiah Healey, a needle exchange supporter, balked at a part of the state's pilot program that would have included a needle exchange van.
Jersey City becomes the fifth Garden State city to pass a needle exchange ordinance since Gov. Jon Corzine (D) signed a bill allowing them into law in December. The other cities are Atlantic City, Camden, Newark, and Paterson. None have functioning needle exchange programs yet. All have either just passed ordinances or have applications to join the pilot program under review by the state.
New Jersey has the highest rate of cumulative HIV/AIDS cases among women, the third highest rate of pediatric HIV/AIDS cases, the fifth highest rate of adult HIV/AIDS cases and a rate of injection-related HIV infection that is nearly twice the national average.
Still, it took years of activism and lobbying by local public health officials and the Drug Policy Alliance, whose Roseanne Scotti paced the halls of the state capitol, to win approval of needle exchange programs in New Jersey. And the battle isn't over yet. Seven other New Jersey cities that could be eligible to participate have so far failed to do so.