TRENTON – Senator Nia H. Gill today praised the start of Atlantic City’s syringe-exchange program as “a long-overdue action that will save thousands of lives” by reducing the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
“Lives that would have been lost to the consequences of addiction will now be saved,” said Senator Gill who sponsored the law which authorized select municipalities like Atlantic City to conduct pilot programs where clean needles are given free to those who seek them.
Ron Cash, Director of Health and Human Services for Atlantic City and Director of the city’s needle-exchange program, said 20 people came through for clean syringes at the Oasis Drop-In Center on Tuesday.
“We have to work out some kinks, but it went well overall,” said Mr. Cash. “The best part about the first day was that one of the clients sought addiction treatment services and was referred immediately.” He said the client will receive services at the nearby John Brooks Recovery Center.
Cash credited Senator Gill for her “passionate dedication” to securing passage of her legislation to remove the ban on exchanging clean syringes in New Jersey, “We wouldn’t be in business without Senator Gill.”
Senator Gill said the exchange programs will demonstrate that lives lost to the ravages of HIV/AIDS spread through the sharing of dirty needles can now be saved.
“The people of Atlantic City are making history by taking positive action on the authorization that we finally secured last year to end the stigma associated with helping the voiceless and the powerless,” Senator Gill said.
Senator Gill, D-Essex and Passaic, said she hopes the other pilot programs in municipalities sanctioned by the Department of Health and Senior Services – Camden, Paterson and Newark – start up soon.
“Atlantic City is fortunate to have people like Ron Cash who are driving forces for changing the status quo,” Senator Gill said. “It is time for these other pilot programs to follow the lead of Atlantic City.”
Senator Gill said the opening of the Atlantic City center and its plan to distribute clean needles three times a week will provide real-life examples of the benefits associated with a statewide and national crisis.
“The people who will be helped aren’t faceless statistics – they are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, friends, children, neighbors and co-workers and they are in every community,” Senator Gill said.