NEEDLE EXCHANGE: Satcher, Black Caucus Deride Decision
Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher's reaction Friday to the Clinton administration's decision against funding needle-exchange programs was that "he is 'disappointed' any time resources are not available to fund effective programs," the AP/Boston Globe reports. Satcher's vocal support of needle exchange, used against him in his recent confirmation hearings, dates from his tenure as the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Satcher called the administration's decision to endorse needle-exchange programs, despite its refusal to fund them, "significant." He called on localities to "find the funds" for their own programs "if they feel comfortable with them."
Black Caucus Blasts McCaffrey
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus Friday called for the dismissal of drug czar Barry McCaffrey, the man largely responsible for convincing Clinton not to fund the programs. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said, "This is a life-and-death issue. You can save lives with needle exchange distribution as we try to work at getting rid of drugs in our society" (Meckler, 4/25). The Washington Times reports that the group contends that more blacks than whites contract HIV through contaminated needles. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said, "We do not intend to let AIDS become a black disease. ... We have no confidence in the drug czar. ... He should resign. His death-dealing battle against needle exchanges is steeped in ignorance and should not be tolerated." The caucus also wrote a letter to President Clinton, saying, "We believe ... McCaffrey is wrong in his belief that funding needle-exchange programs would send the wrong message about the administration's commitment to fighting drugs."
Defending His Position
McCaffrey, however, called needle-exchange programs "magnets for all social ills." He said, "Minority communities and their representatives should exercise great care before issuing a blanket endorsement of these programs" (Bedard, 4/25). He added, "If you're a parent already fighting to bring your children up right and protect them from drugs, you have to ask: 'Do I want one of these programs on my corner or near my child's school?'" (AP/Globe, 4/25). White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry also defended McCaffrey. "I can think of very few people who have been more personally committed to making a difference in the lives of minority Americans, especially, who are affected by the scourge of drugs," he said (Washington Times, 4/25).