NEEDLE EXCHANGE: San Mateo, Fresno Counties May Legalize Programs
San Mateo County Supervisors tomorrow will decide whether to declare an AIDS emergency that would decriminalize needle exchanges aimed at stopping the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among area drug users. County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow has said that the current situation poses "extreme peril" to the county, making way for the crisis declaration. If approved, health advocates would be able to operate needle exchange programs openly and could apply for grants and government support ( Bay City New Service/Contra Costa Times, 12/19). The proposal is possible thanks to a measure signed in October by Gov. Gray Davis (D) that allows local governments to declare a public health emergency, during which needle exchange workers are immune from prosecution. Fresno County advocates also hope to take advantage of the new law; next month they will ask the county's Board of Supervisors to take similar action. According to Tony Mello, founder of the San Joaquin Valley Exchange Works, a "medical crisis exists" among the county's 15,000 intravenous drug users (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 12/17).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.