#242 Disease Plays Better Than Needle Exchange In Peoria

Date: Wed, 08 May 2002
Subject: # 242 Disease Plays Better Than Needle Exchange In Peoria

Disease Plays Better Than Needle Exchange In Peoria

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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #242 Wed, 8 May 2002

Needle exchanges have been an important part of efforts to block the
transmission of disease among intravenous drug users. Apparently the
news hasn’t made it to Peoria yet. The local newspaper ran several
stories this week about a needle exchange program in the city. The
coverage included a remarkably ignorant editorial that is reproduced
below. A column printed the same day that’s almost as bad can be
viewed here: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v02/n875/a10.html

The attack against needle exchange has now become a personal attack on
the provider of the services. The editorial viciously attacked Beth
Wehrman, a courageous reformer who has brought successful harm
reduction efforts to many cities in Illinois. Beth is also a dedicated
Media Awareness Project volunteer. The effectiveness of street
outreach and needle exchange programs has been proven in study after
study – for information on the subject see http://www.drugwarfacts.org/syringee.htm

Tuesday evening, May 7th, in a rush to judgement, the City Council of
Peoria acted, and the Wednesday morning banner headline is “Needle
Exchange Program Outlawed.” See http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v02.n881.a07.html

Unfortunately, the Peoria Journal Star and some local politicians
clearly haven’t taken the time to read the evidence. Instead their
arguments are based on prejudice and illogical assumptions. Please
write a letter to the Peoria Star Journal to politely remind editors
that a little research might save them from embarrassing themselves in
the future. It might also help to reduce the harm of the drug war in
their city. Please also consider writing to the City Council in
Peoria. Contact information is below.

Thanks for your effort and support.

WRITE A LETTER TODAY

It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do

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CONTACT INFO

Source: Peoria Journal Star (IL)
Contact: forum@pjstar.com

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EXTRA CREDIT

Please let the Peoria Mayor and City Council know what you think about
their efforts to run Beth out of town! Please be polite and positive.
Educate them!

Mayor: David Ransburg mayor@ci.peoria.il.us

Council Members:
Jim Ardis jardis@ci.peoria.il.us
Charles Grayeb cgrayeb@ci.peoria.il.us
Clyde Gulley Jr. cgulley@ci.peoria.il.us
John Morris jmorris@ci.peoria.il.us
Patrick Nichting pnichting@ci.peoria.il.us
Gary Sandberg gsandberg@ci.peoria.il.us
William Spears wspears@ci.peoria.il.us
Marcella Teplitz mteplitz@ci.peoria.il.us
Gale Thetford gthetford@ci.peoria.il.us
Eric Turner weturner@ci.peoria.il.us

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EDITORIAL

Pubdate: Tue, 07 May 2002
Source: Peoria Journal Star (IL)
Copyright: 2002 Peoria Journal Star
Contact: forum@pjstar.com
Website: http://pjstar.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/338
Related: Please read thru the following to see exactly how this newspaper
created the hysteria:
http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v02/n852/a09.html
http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v02/n867/a02.html
http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v02/n867/a01.html
http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v02/n875/a10.html
Facts: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/syringee.htm
Bookmarks: http://www.mapinc.org/hr.htm (Harm Reduction)
http://www.mapinc.org/find?137 (Needle Exchange)

GET THE POINT: ‘NEEDLE LADY’ SHOULD BE SENT PACKING

Letting somebody drive into a residential neighborhood and give away
needles to junkies is the craziest idea that’s come this way in a long
time. It’s as bizarre as any urban legend that’s gone around, but it’s
true. Unfortunately.

Every Wednesday, Beth Wehrman cruises through Peoria’s South Side,
pulls over and hands out needles and syringes to drug addicts who,
neighbors complain, sometimes shoot up in public view and throw the
refuse onto their property. This goes on near a school, near
businesses and near homes. And this, Wehrman would have you believe,
is good for the city because it will reduce the incidence of AIDS.

Don’t you believe her. The weekly appearance of the “needle lady” (as
the neighbors call her) is a hideous threat to this neighborhood and
to any city that permits it. It lures junkies in. Junkies scare good
homeowners, renters and businesses away. It tells kids that drug use
must be more than OK, it must be very good, because otherwise somebody
wouldn’t be handing out needles for free. Even the ice cream man makes
you pay. It gives suburbanites one more reason to stay there and
Peorians one new reason to think about moving out.

The needle exchange program is part of an effort to limit the spread
of AIDS by encouraging addicts to return their used needles and shoot
up with clean ones. Nearly one-fourth of new AIDS cases can be traced
to contaminated needle reuse. Wehrman, a nurse, runs a Rock Island
based agency which partners with a Chicago alliance that says it is
engaged in public health research about needles. She also has a grant
from the Champaign-Urbana Public Health which is supposed to be used
for prevention and education. Wehrman also hands out condoms and gives
hepatitis immunizations and HIV tests.

While the support for needle exchanges is growing to counteract the
threat of AIDS, there are a number of reasons for communities to
embrace them reluctantly. Drugs can kill; sterilizing a needle does
not make usage safe. Illegal drug use is illegal; cities should not
abet those who would break the law. Junkies destroy families and
communities; society should not sanction or enable them.

Whatever the role for privately funded needle exchanges might be
should be limited to programs operated in conjunction with a broader
effort to wean people off drugs. There is some evidence that addicts
who come to agencies for clean needles become receptive, over time, to
starting treatment. But a clinic, where a counselor is available, is a
far cry from a street-corner encounter with a nurse in a car who says
it’s not her job to recommend that abusers see the light.

Tonight the Peoria City Council will consider an ordinance that would
limit the sale or exchange of needles to a building in a part of town
that is not residentially zoned, and also require the distributor to
tell the police when and where he’ll be working. Corporation counsel
Randy Ray believes this is as far as state law permits cities to go.
Wehrman maintains that if she is forced to move to a storefront or
clinic, she won’t be able to reach as many people.

That would be wonderful.

The first responsibility of any city is not to keep its drug addicts
healthy but to protect the people who live and work in its
neighborhoods, who obey the law every day and who are trying to teach
their children to do the same. Residents of the Olde Towne South
neighborhood where Wehrman sets up shop already put up with too many
neighborhood vermin. They shouldn’t have to advertise for imports.

The Peoria City Council should do whatever it takes to put this
huckster wagon out of business. Then it should ask the state
Legislature to take a second look at the 50-year-old law that courts
have said justifies street-corner giveaways if the distributor says
she’s doing important research. That’s really preposterous.

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SAMPLE LETTER (sent)

To the Editor of the Peoria Journal Star:

I was very disappointed to read your editorial “Get the Point,” about
the so-called “needle lady,” Beth Wehrman. The slightest bit of
research would have dispelled many myths editorialists presented as
facts.

The editorial stated, “While the support for needle exchanges is
growing to counteract the threat of AIDS, there are a number of
reasons for communities to embrace them reluctantly.” Unfortunately,
the editorial did not cite any studies that would explain such
reluctance. Authors must have missed virtually every study released on
needle exchanges in the past five years.

Four years ago, the U.S. Surgeon General stated: “After reviewing all
of the research to date, the senior scientists of the Department and I
have unanimously agreed that there is conclusive scientific evidence
that syringe exchange programs, as part of a comprehensive HIV
prevention strategy, are an effective public health intervention that
reduces the transmission of HIV and does not encourage the use of
illegal drugs.”

That perspective has not changed in the scientific community. Hmmm,
who’s judgement should I trust, editorialists in Peoria or the former
Surgeon General?

The judgement of editorialists was further put into question with a
number of statements including: “Wehrman maintains that if she is
forced to move to a storefront or clinic, she won’t be able to reach
as many people. That would be wonderful.”

Difficult problems are best dealt with in the open. Pushing them
underground only helps them to fester and grow. Maybe this is what the
Peoria Journal Star wants the injection drug problem to fester and
grow, but please don’t try to use obfuscation to convince anyone that
that increasing the harm from IV drug use is in the community’s best
interest.

Stephen Young Member Drug Policy Forum of Illinois

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ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing
efforts

Writer’s Resources http://www.mapinc.org/resource/

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Prepared by Stephen Young – http://www.maximizingharm.com Focus Alert
Specialist