Fresno County Grand Jury Recommends Establishing Needle-Exchange Program
Fresno County should establish a needle-exchange program to help prevent the transmission of bloodborne diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C, according to a county Grand Jury report released last month, the Fresno Bee reports. The report cited a study published in the September 2004 issue of the Journal of Urban Health that found the county had 173 injection drug users per 10,000 residents, the highest rate of any U.S. metropolitan area.
The county Board of Supervisors has considered establishing a needle-exchange program in previous years, but supervisors have cited liability and other issues as concerns that kept them from approving a program. However, under a 1999 state law (AB 136), California counties and their agents are protected from criminal prosecution for operating needle-exchange programs.
The grand jury report said that the supervisors should enact a needle-exchange program under AB 136 and another state law (SB 1159) that allows cities and counties to authorize pharmacies to sell as many as 10 sterile syringes at one time to an adult without a prescription (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 7/11).
The grand jury report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the report.