Rice Responds To Free Needle Advocates

TRENTON – Senator Ronald L. Rice today released the following statement charging that Roseanne Scotti, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, exploited World AIDS Day as a way to push her needle exchange agenda. The Assembly Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote Monday on the “Bloodborne Disease Harm Reduction Act” which would establish syringe access programs.

“I read with great interest today the newspaper articles about syringe access advocates, especially Ms. Scotti, who use World AIDS Day as a way to push needle exchange legislation.

“Unfortunately, Ms. Scotti and other pro-needle forces, who get paid to push syringe access are using World AIDS Day to promote a dangerous program. All around the world people are realizing that education and treatment are working as a viable alternative to needles. In fact, the numbers of those who die from AIDS has dropped in New Jersey.

“Today we need to continue to fight for preventative education and treatment program throughout the world. Even former President Bill Clinton was in New Delhi this week to arrange an agreement to cut the prices for HIV and AIDS treatments which will make the needed drugs far more accessible worldwide. I find it interesting that as the world is talking about support systems, and treatment for those with AIDS, Ms. Scotti is pushing needles for them to have needles.

“I am ready to argue against free needles on the Senate floor. I am disturbed that my colleagues are being given distorted information from organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance. I am also disturbed that this organization is asking their 1,250 members to fax the Governor, Assembly Speaker and Senate President to push for syringe access when they ought to be asking these leaders for more treatment and education programs. Commissioner Fred Jacobs, of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services promised last year to push educational programs but he has yet to do so.

“With so much distorted information, and ‘self-reporting studies’ being sent out, I would like to ask my colleagues to do some research themselves and make their own informed decision. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations has made it clear that they can not say needle exchange programs work because of the lack of data.

“I’m concerned that people are not getting the full story. I want to make it clear that there is a direct link between gangs, drugs, and guns, a link that will only further be fueled by handing out free needles. I want the public and those in the Legislature to realize that every day local newspapers are filled with stories about deadly incident that can be connected to drugs. Unfortunately, many of these stories get hidden in county sections.

“Yes we are losing people to AIDS every day, but we are also losing just as many people to overdoses, suicides and homicides that are linked to drugs in New Jersey. By cracking down on drugs, we can eliminate gangs, reduce crime and save lives — needles will only further promote the use of drugs.”

Senator Rice cited several media accounts of recent incidents linked to gangs and drugs.

A body found floating in a lake last month at Newark’s Weequahic Park has been identified as a 39-year-old Newark man with a history of arrests for drug possession and petty crimes.

Police identified the victim of a fatal shooting at a housing complex. At the scene, officers found drugs and are looking into the possibility that the shooting was tied to the drug trade.

A Newark man was convicted of killing another man over possible money dispute in a prosecution that was almost derailed when a key witness was shot 11 times while the case was awaiting trial.

Federal agents arrested an Elizabeth pharmacy owner who authorities said defrauded Medicare out of more than $2.8 million by selling unsuspecting customers black-market prescription drugs.

In Camden a man facing weapons charges may be responsible for killing a sleeping teenager who was a bystander in a drug turf war.

“My point in citing these media references to crimes linked to drugs is that we have to do something drastic as far as treatment is concerned. Giving out needles won’t do a damn thing positive.”