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Rice Gears Up To Fight Needle Exchange Bill

TRENTON – Senator Ronald L. Rice released the following statement today regarding the placement of needle exchange legislation on the agenda in the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on Monday, September 14th, at 10 a.m. in room 6 of the State House Annex.

“I am adamantly opposed to any measure that would provide drug users with free needles. I will never accept the idea that putting more needles on the street will decrease the spread of disease. Free needles allow those on drugs to remain on drugs for the rest of their lives.

“My colleagues in the legislature are wrong if they continue to back needle exchange. They are misguided in thinking that flooding the streets with more needles will do anything to stop the spread of AIDS. On the contrary, giving those on drugs the tools to use will only make abusing drugs easier. Drug users only care about getting high. When they get the urge to use they are not going to worry about if a needle is clean or not. Sharing drugs and needles will continue, and more people will die if we allow syringe exchange in New Jersey. Needle exchange will only compound the problem of drug related deaths, especially for women and minorities.

“I live in Newark and see children having to step over dirty syringes on the ground on their way to school. These children see drug deals go down regularly. Seniors, disabled citizens and working families have become prisoners in their own homes because of deadly gang wars over drug turfs outside their windows. If you open the newspaper, you will see drug-related, violent crime every day. We need to help get people off drugs and into jobs. We need to take back our streets from gangs, and we need to keep the drugs out of our communities.

“By backing free needle programs, my colleagues are turning their backs on those addicted to drugs, especially women and minorities. If they want to do something to win the war on drugs and stop the spread of disease, they need to provide real treatment, education, and job training. We need to give those on drugs a hand in getting clean and back on track, not a handful of syringes to get high.

“We must provide more residential treatment facilities like Broadway House, which is a specialized AIDS nursing care facility. Last June, I sponsored a law that required the Department of Health and Senior Services to establish Medicaid admissions criteria for regional AIDS treatment facilities in North, Central and South Jersey. Over a year later — there are still empty beds that are waiting to be filled, but can’t because the department hasn’t done its job. There is also a real need for additional beds throughout the State to meet the demand.

“The fact is that more people die from drug overdosing than from AIDS. Residential treatment programs have been more successful in getting people clean and keeping them off drugs than brief detox programs with little additional support. I urge the members on the Senate panel to stop ignoring minorities and women and provide proper treatment — not just more drug paraphernalia. People’s lives depend on elected officials to do what is right for them. Help save their lives and vote against syringe access programs.”