SANTA BARBARA COUNTY: Supervisors to Consider Needle Exchange
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors today will consider declaring a local medical emergency that would authorize the county's first needle exchange, the Santa Barbara News-Press reports. The not-for-profit Pacific Pride Foundation, which plans to operate the program at no cost to the county, would exchange clean needles for dirty ones on a strict one-to-one basis and would distribute educational materials about drug use and diseases. Dr. Elliot Schulman, county health officer and medical director, said, "We've been considering this for years. With the emergence of good research to address all the issues, we feel ready to go forward." Health officials are unsure how many county residents would participate, but Schulman said that needle sharing has been linked to at least 14% of the county's AIDS cases. "We certainly have a goal to make sure we are prepared for those who do come in to talk about getting clean and stop the habit," Schulman said. Pacific Pride Executive Director Janet Stanley said she hopes the program will be operating by fall. Last October, Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed a bill protecting local needle exchanges from criminal liability. The law requires that county boards declare local medical emergencies and the Public Health Department authorizes the needle exchange (Van De Kamp, 6/2).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.