Tony Newman at 212-613-8026 or Shayna Samuels at 646-523-6961
Trenton–With Senate Bill 2794 set for hearings in the Senate Commerce Committee today, the legislation was suddenly pulled by Senate Sponsor Joseph Vitale due to last minute opposition from a small, but vocal group of legislative opponents. Roseanne Scotti, Director of the New Jersey Drug Policy Project-Drug Policy Alliance, a member of the Campaign for a Healthier New Jersey, expressed disappointment, but vowed to fight on, “This is a tragedy for New Jersey. This legislation would have saved thousands of lives and millions of dollars.” But Scotti declared the intention to continue to fight for reintroduction and passage of the legislation. “This is about saving lives, this is about doing the right thing morally. We will not give up until New Jersey has sterile syringe access as part of a comprehensive AIDS prevention strategy.”
The bill, which was co-sponsored by Senators Joseph Vitale (D, Middlesex County), Robert W. Singer (R, Burlington County), and William L. Gormley (R, Atlantic County), had gained wide support statewide with the city councils of Newark, Atlantic City, Jersey City, and Camden passing resolutions supporting the legislation. A coalition of organizations calling itself the Campaign for a Healthier New Jersey supported the bill and included the Medical Society of New Jersey, the New Jersey Hospital Association, the New Jersey State Nurses Association, the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey, The National Association of Social Workers-New Jersey Chapter, and several pharmacy groups.
Previous efforts at passing syringe access legislation have failed, and this bill came closer than any other with hearings set for the Senate, and expected in the Assembly. Most states long ago abandoned restrictive syringe access laws in response to the public health crisis caused by the AIDS epidemic. New Jersey is one of only two states which allow no access to clean needles to prevent the spread of HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. New Jersey has the 5th highest adult HIV rate, the 3rd highest pediatric HIV rate, and the highest percentage of women infected with HIV in the nation. Almost half the states HIV infections are caused by people sharing dirty needles because they do not have access to clean needles.