For the first time, New Jersey is providing state funds for needles that are distributed to intravenous drug users as a way of preventing the spread of disease.
Gov. Chris Christie is directing that $200,000 go to the state’s five syringe access programs for needles and related supplies.
Georgette Watson, the chief operating officer of the South Jersey AIDS Alliance, said the needle-distribution centers had been relying on small grants from private foundations.
“We had one syringe-access program that didn’t operate for two months because they ran out of funds,” Watson said. “We have another one that was thinking they wouldn’t be supplying syringes too much longer because the funding they have was ending. So this is a tremendous weight off our shoulders.”
The governor’s action will allow the syringe access programs to continue, said Roseanne Scotti, the state director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
“They are serving thousands of people, reducing the risk of HIV and hepatitis, providing access to drug treatment and other social services,” she said. “And they’re really on the front lines of reaching the hardest-to-reach people who are using injection opioids.”
Needle-exchange programs now operate in Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Camden and Atlantic City.
Under the legislation Christie signed, any municipality in the state can now have one.