Governor Christie Directs Commissioner of Health to Invest $200,000 in New Jersey Syringe Access Programs

Press Release August 30, 2016
Media Contact

Tommy McDonald 510-679-2311
Roseanne Scotti 609-610-8243

Trenton — Today, Governor Christie signed legislation that will make permanent the sterile syringe access programs in New Jersey that were originally created as demonstration programs in 2006 under the Blood-Borne Disease Harm Reduction Act. Governor Christie also directed the Commissioner of Health to invest $200,000 in the existing syringe access programs.

“We are overjoyed by Governor Christie’s commitment to the syringe access programs in New Jersey,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “For so long these programs have operated with minimal support from the state, and the $200,000 will go a long way to providing life-changing and life-saving services for New Jersey citizens. We are deeply grateful.”

In signing the legislation, Governor Christie also explained his reasoning for line-item vetoing the $95,000 that was appropriated for the programs in the proposed FY 2017 budget earlier this summer,

“I commend the bill’s sponsors for seeking to expand these worthwhile syringe-exchange programs throughout the State. However, this bill could be a hollow victory if the five existing syringe exchange programs cannot keep their doors open. Currently, the existing programs are in need of sterile syringes and related supplies to continue their mission. The Legislature’s proposed FY 2017 budget appropriated only $95,000 for these programs, which would not have provided sufficient resources for the year. It is for this reason that I line-item vetoed the appropriation and instead, I am directing the Commissioner of Health to invest $200,000 in the existing syringe exchange programs for necessary syringes and related supplies.”

Georgett Watson, Chief Operations Officer for the South Jersey AIDS Alliance said, “The $200,000 is a life saver. Programs are struggling to keep their doors open, and while lifetime HIV care for one person costs more than $618,000, a clean syringe costs about 10¢. There isn’t a better investment New Jersey could make.”

Syringe access programs in New Jersey have been a resounding and unqualified success.  A 2010 report by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services stated, “The program is off to an excellent start and serves a hard-to-reach population with tremendous promise in preventing the transmission of blood-borne pathogens.”  At that time almost 5,000 individuals had accessed the programs and the services they offer.  The news since then has only gotten better.  To date:

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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