Assembly Panel Approves Eustace, Gusciora & Quijano Bill to Ensure Needle Exchange Continues in NJ

(TRENTON) – A legislative effort spearheaded by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Reed Gusciora and Annette Quijano to ensure needle exchange programs continue statewide was approved by the Assembly budget panel on Thursday.

“Needle exchange programs have effectively reduced the sharing of needles and the spread of bloodborne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C,” said Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The legislation makes permanent vital funding that will allow these critical programs to serve New Jersey’s communities.”

According to the 2010 interim report issued by the Department of health and Senior Services, the municipal needle exchange programs established by the “Bloodborne Disease Harm Reduction Act” reduced HIV risks and increased access to drug treatment and other social services for intravenous drug users, without any increase in harmful effects on the rates of crime or syringe disposal. The report indicates that the program holds great promise in preventing the transmission of bloodborne pathogens, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

“These programs have helped to stem the transmission of HIV not only in New Jersey but throughout the country,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “Funding is crucial for these programs. We must ensure they are continually supported in the future.”

“Thousands of lives have been saved and continue to be saved through needle exchange programs,” said Quijano (D-Union). “We must support their efforts so that they may carry on their work helping residents who desperately need these services.”

The bill (A-415) makes permanent the “Bloodborne Disease Harm Reduction Act.” The act established a demonstrations program that authorized up to six municipalities in the state to operate needle exchange programs. Atlantic City, Camden, Jersey City, Newark, and Paterson currently operate such programs.

The bill authorizes any municipality in the state to operate such a program and provides for an appropriation of $95,000.

Under the bill, regulations to be prescribed by the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services must be consistent with the regulations adopted in 2007 that currently govern the demonstration program. In addition the bill amends current law to provide that the commissioner prepare an analysis of the programs, rather than contract with an independent entity to do so.

The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker to be considered for a floor vote.