January 22, 2009
Success and Setbacks for Atlantic City’s Needle-Exchange Program
While Atlantic City’s three-year needle exchange program is successfully distributing clean needles in an effort to stem the spread of HIV and hepatitis, it’s struggling to refer addicted clients to drug treatment, Newsday reports.
According to the article, with just 74 drug referrals as of December 21, state statistics ranked New Jersey’s first needle exchange program last among similar programs in Newark, Paterson and Camden.
Therese Wilkerson, a co-coordinator of the city’s program, believes that it’s difficult to coax clients into rehab and suggests that counselors encourage them to seek help without being too forceful. “I wish we could do better, but we can’t push it on them,” she says.
The program recently added a housing component in response to studies that indicate drug users with reliable housing are more likely to get off drugs and become more stable. New Jersey has given the program 31 vouchers, which house 16 clients who are not in treatment and 15 who currently are.
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