Fresno County Supervisors Order Report To Determine Scope of Injection Drug Use
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors ordered county Health Officer Edward Moreno to determine whether injection drug use in the county has reached a public health crisis, which would allow the county to create a legal needle-exchange program to address the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, the Fresno Bee reports.
According to a recent study, Fresno County has a higher per capita rate of illegal injection drug users than any other large metropolitan city in the U.S. The county's review of a Grand Jury report said many of those drug users are at risk for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. The county Department of Community Health said 75% of injection drug users in the county are infected with hepatitis C.
The county also agreed with the Grand Jury conclusion that needle-exchange programs do not encourage the use of illegal drugs and do not enhance criminal activity.
Currently, the Fresno Needle Exchange illegally distributes needles to drug users once weekly.
However, Supervisor Henry Perea said whether or not the board decides to legalize a needle exchange, supervisors must address the illegal distribution. "It's time for this board for once and all to deal with this issue," Perea said.
Moreno said the report likely would be completed in a month (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 9/28).
A "mountain of evidence points to savings to taxpayers -- and no increase in illegal drug use -- by improving access to clean needles," a Sacramento Bee editorial states. However, "California hasn't exactly distinguished itself as a leader in public health as one of the last states in the nation to allow pharmacies to sell clean needles without a prescription," the editorial states, adding that the issue "isn't about condoning illegal drug use, but preventing the spread of dangerous diseases and saving the government money" (Sacramento Bee, 9/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.