Harm Reduction: New Jersey Needle Exchange Bill Moves to Final Floor Votes Next Week

After more than a decade of struggle and thousands of preventable HIV/AIDS cases, New Jersey is on the brink of passing the first bill that would allow needle exchanges to take place in the state. After winning a final Assembly committee vote Monday, the measure now advances to final floor votes in the Assembly and the Senate next Monday.

The bill, A1852, the Bloodborne Disease Harm Reduction Act, would allow up to six Garden State municipalities to begin needle exchange programs for injection drug users in a bid to reduce HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C infection rates. It also appropriates $10 million in "seed money" for drug treatment programs.

With legislative action in Maryland and Delaware in recent years, New Jersey is the only state that allows neither needle exchanges nor the non-prescription sale of needles. A bill that would allow for non-prescription needle sales, A2839, has also passed all committee hurdles in both houses and will go to an Assembly floor vote next Monday, but is unlikely to be voted on in the Senate until next year.

Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey office was guardedly optimistic about the needle exchange bill's chances for passage in e-mails to supporters. While noting that the bill had already passed the Assembly once in 2004 and would probably pick up support in that chamber this time around, the Senate fight will be "very tough."

"This is a positive development that could put New Jersey back into the mainstream of other states that have approved clean-needle exchanges and other strategies to reduce the transmission of AIDS among drug addicts, their partners and children," said the bill's sponsor, Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr. (D-Camden).

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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