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AC City Council, Atlantic City, Beyond Atlantic City, Political

Atlantic City: Housing, Healthcare, and Free Drug Needles For All!

   Casino profits may have decreased, but one area of Atlantic City commerce is booming.  NBC40 reports:

TRENTON — The New Jersey needle exchange program is struggling to attract clients statewide, except for one local location.

About 175 people have enrolled in the Atlantic City program at the Oasis Drop Center since November.

My vehement opposition has been voiced both when I guest hosted a local talk show and in my February column in the Casino Connection.  Eliminating the needle exchange program is a top political priority in improving the quality of life in Atlantic City.

   Atlantic City City Council has allowed a needle exchange system within the city limits for less than a year.  Atlantic City has enabled a system using a state grant to give multiple clean needles for every dirty (read – used) needle that a drug user trades-in.  The needle exchange system makes it easier for intravenous drug users to financially support their habits.  It makes sick sense – twisted logic, as it were – for a state that already pays for housing, food, and basic health care to now provide needles for citizens to shoot drugs.

   The needle exchange gives new meaning to President Herbert Hoover’s old political promise of a “chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.”

   Let us look at the drug needle issue from another angle.  It has been said – whether it is true or not is another story – “it takes a village to raise a child.”  I will not want my grown children to shoot intravenous drugs.  As much as I do not want this, it ultimately is my child’s personal decision.  Assuming my child develops a desire for intravenous drugs, I will certainly not pay for his drugs or drug paraphernalia.  How is it that state and city governments force me to pay to provide any one showing up to the Oasis Drop Center with free needles for a personal habit that I do not endorse? Second, why should any NJ resident have to pay for anyone who chooses to use drugs?

   This brings us back to “it takes a village to raise a child.”  What if the neighbor on the corner were giving my child a needle to shoot drugs?  I would take action to stop him from enabling my child’s illegal activity.  The representatives of the Atlantic City community have decided that they will encourage intravenous drug use in the City.  The City has collaborated with the state to force the entire state to pay for drug users’ needles.  The City has also decided that they want to market Atlantic City both as an all-purpose destination and a distribution center for drug users from any place to receive multiple unused needles in exchange for used needles.

   The law says it is  illegal to possess a hypodermic needle in NJ.  Atlantic City’s free needle distribution in collaboration with state government say it is legal.  These governmental bodies speak out of both sides of their mouths. 

   Parents, whether you like it or not, if your child decides to use intravenous drugs, you will be paying for their drug habit.  So much for parental authority.  So much for community standards.  So much for law. 

   From Atlantic City – alluding to the Margaret Wise Brown classic –  goodnight family structure, goodnight community decency, and goodnight rule of law.   


About Jesse O. Kurtz

I am committed to fulfilling the promise of Atlantic City. The town would benefit from greater political participation by average citizens. Hopefully, some of the posts herein will encourage you to get more involved in your community. This blog will also feature other topics and subjects beyond Atlantic City. I hope that you will come to love Atlantic City as much, or more than I do.


18 thoughts on “Atlantic City: Housing, Healthcare, and Free Drug Needles For All!

  1. Nice article. I completely agree with you. Why is that when this state is in a “financial crisis” we are buying needles for drug addicts?

    Posted by Cecilia | February 27, 2008, 4:44 pm
  2. I don’t want my tax dollars used on something that could harm someone either, but the addict is going to use the needle anyhow.
    You make the point that NJ does not allow needles to be sold without an Rx. Good point, but that is also part of the reason why this program is needed because all other states allow addicts to buy clean needles at walmart.
    The bottom line is that the program prevents the sharing of needles, thus decreasing the spread of AIDS.
    You may think that you won’t get AIDS because you don’t engage in risky behavior, but people who have HIV and AIDS, because of the condition, come down with many other communicable diseases that you or your family or any of us in the community could catch.
    Like TB for one. More AIDS & HIV patients with low immune systems means that they are more vulnerable to becoming infected with TB.
    Once that happens, the TB, or any other disease that a low immune person incubates, will be spread in the usual way.
    More diseases like this are also a drain on the health care system, so preventing the spread of these illnesses, along with AIDS & HIV in the first place makes sense.
    I don’t see how anyone could argue against this.
    Its a health problem, not just for the junkies, for ALL of us and our families.

    Posted by required | February 27, 2008, 6:05 pm
  3. I very rarely agree with the opinion and position of the Mr Kurtz, but on this he’s right on. I’ve dealt with IV users most of my life both on a professional level and in my own family. By giving needles your adding to the problem and giving them permission.

    Posted by keylargododge | February 27, 2008, 9:56 pm
  4. Being ignorant about this and speaking out against the clean needle program puts everyone in our community’s health at risk.
    What is so hard to understand about it?
    Junkie shares needle, catches AIDS from it. Comes down with diseases due to immune deficiancy. They are now a walking, breathing, germ-spreader. Those germs spread throughout the enviroment making everyone at risk.
    Maybe not at more risk of catching AIDS, but more risk of catching diseases that people with AIDS come down with.
    Even a cold which is spread easily.
    Also, they put healthcare workers at more risk, and drain the medical system by using more health resources.
    Most states allow junkies to buy needles but NJ does not. Maybe it would be a better idea to let them buy them.

    Posted by required | February 27, 2008, 11:59 pm
  5. No one is “ignorant” because we don’t agree with the needle exchange program. It’s a matter of the kind of city we want to live in. We’re already attracting homeless from across the state because other cities tell their homeless that AC will welcome them. Apparently that’s happening in the IV drug community too. We need to demonstrate that AC is NOT “always turned on” when it comes to drugs. We should not be permitting and encouraging drug use. Giving them needles does just that.

    Posted by dave202 | February 28, 2008, 12:09 am
  6. It is exactly “ignorance”. You are choosing to ignore the fact that the needle exchange could prevent AIDS.
    “Ignoring”, means just that. Did Jesse mention AIDS in his article? (if not that’s called “ignoring”).
    Actually, I’d go so far as to call it more than ignoring, I’d call it “mis-representation”, or “leaving-out-the-facts”, since the needle exchange is sponsored by an AIDS prevention grant and organization.
    Why report a story and leave out the facts?
    Maybe Atlantic City does not want the bad publicity that AIDS is a local health problem? I don’t really know, but repudiating the needle exchange and leaving out the reason for the program in the first place is not a good idea.
    As far as junkies commuting to AC to get free needles, I disagree with that idea.
    IV drug users could easily cross the state line and buy a whole box of new needles (legally) easier than trekking to Atlantic City to get a few free ones.
    This program is pretty much strictly for area IV drug users, and area drug users who are already infected with HIV.
    Am I the only person here who thinks that doing something that is proven to prevent the spread of diseases to the entire community is a good idea? (I hope not).

    Posted by required | February 28, 2008, 2:59 am
  7. Required, thank you for the new title: “Ignorant.”
    You are ignoring that the law forces me and every NJ taxpayer to buy needles for drug users. I do not want to support that behavior.
    Feel free to take out an ad in the newspaper. Tell drug users from anywhere and everywhere that you will trade new needles for their used ones. Open a needle exchange in your garage. I hope that Atlantic City Councilmen, Police Chief Mooney, state legislators, and everyone else in support of the needle exchange join you. Do it yourself, but do not force me through the power of government to buy drug users their needles.
    I do not force you, through AC City Council and Trenton, to purchase the books I enjoy reading and the whiskey I enjoy drinking.
    Do not call me “ignorant” for not wanting to support illegal drug use. Do not call me “ignorant” for not wanting every IV drug user in NJ and beyond to come to my town. And do not call me “ignorant” because I respect the law. The title “ignorant” may be required elsewhere.

    Posted by Jesse O. Kurtz | February 28, 2008, 1:04 pm
  8. Where there is cow dung there are flies! It cracks (no pun intended) me up. These criminals are treated like poster children. They should be sent to a Guantonomo Bay setting to straighten up or live there. How much crime do they commit which is not even reported or dealt with. If I can’t pay my property taxes it gets sold at a tax sale. That’s pretty cold also. Where is a government agency to help me? Don’t all laugh at once.

    Posted by taxslave | February 28, 2008, 2:08 pm
  9. I’m calling you ignorant because you are ignoring the facts.
    The police support needle exchanges because it makes their job safer. It makes the streets safer, since instead of throwing an AIDS-infected needle on the ground,or sharing it, an addict can dispose of it properly.
    Do you know that at least one incident of a young child being punctured with a needle was reported in AC?
    I don’t want my tax dollars to pay for a needle that could be used for illegal or dangerous drugs either, but the current law in NJ, unlike most states, is that a RX is needed to buy clean needles.
    I would hope that my children never use needles or experiment with drugs,or even steroids,or walk on the streets in AC without shoes and step on a dirty needle,but I wouldn’t want to give them the death penalty if they did.
    Even though taxpayers don’t pay for people’s whiskey, we pay for the consequences of alcohol every day. If prohibition returned, (and I would be in favor of that,btw), would you also insist that inbibers be forced to drink the outlawed liquor from a broken, disease-carrying glass, or would you support the idea of collecting the broken-glasses, and trading them for a clean one?
    Atlantic City was not chosen arbitrarily to participate in the program. Have you done any research to see why AC was chosen?
    Avoiding risky behavior is a good personal incentive, but when other people’s risky behavior puts everyone at risk, it is criminal not to mitigate the risk if we can.
    I really think that you, Mr. O’Kurtz, are wrong here. You obviously have some influence in this matter and it is too bad you are being so stubborn that you refuse to address the facts since the fact is that it is a health problem, not a moral problem and it affects all of us not just drug users.
    I don’t like to concern myself with subjects such as AIDS, and diseases either, but that is the reason for the needle exchange and you seem to have an aversion to addressing that.

    Posted by required | February 28, 2008, 2:56 pm
  10. I see that you have changed the settings on your website so that my comments will not be visable untill you censor them.
    I hope that you advise your readers of your new policy.
    If you don’t, I will.

    Posted by required | February 28, 2008, 2:59 pm
  11. According to the erroneous logic on regard’s comment, if we do not provide free needles to drug users then there will be far more diseases than if we do. How about enforcing the laws prohibiting drugs and there will be no enchange of infected needles? Wow, that is an original thought!

    Posted by Cecilia | February 28, 2008, 4:55 pm
  12. Please point out what you think is erroneous about the logic? I did not invent the idea, it is a proven fact that AIDS and other diseases are transmitted by needles.
    What does enforcing drug laws have to do with somebody who comes down with AIDS, who then gets sick with TB because of the AIDS, who then gets on an elavator with YOU, they sneeze, and YOU catch TB?
    If they had not caught AIDS from sharing a needle, they would not have been so vulnerable to TB, which they habor and incubate in their body to the point where they are teeming with GERMS!, which can then be spread all over.
    I keep trying to explain that this is a health problem, not a political problem and the fact that nobody here gets it worries me.
    And, that even if someone thinks that the risk of contracting AIDS, is a good reason to prevent most people from using needles in the first place, the needle exchange does more to protect those of us who have no risk factors for HIV from AIDS, Hepatitis, TB, than it does to encourage or protect someone who would use drugs.
    So, the NIMBY argument just does not work here because the problem is already there and it affects the entire human population, not just the risk takers.
    They could also change the law so that drug users in NJ could legally buy needles like almost every other state, which would probably
    encorage more people to use needles in the first place by eliminating the risk of spreading diseases. I think this, (needle exchange), is a better option than exposing more people to needles and drugs by changing state needle laws, although health statistics regarding AIDS in NJ, compared to states that allow people to legally buy needles are alarming enough to draw the conclusion that transmission of disease through needles is a very serious health problem.
    Keeping needles illegal in NJ, (except through needle exchanges), is probably a good idea to prevent drug use for people who have not already become addicted, but health experts tell us that needle exchanges save lives and health and not just for drug-addicts, so it would be irresponsible to dismiss that advice just because we don’t use drugs.

    Posted by required | February 28, 2008, 6:05 pm
  13. Let me put in a couple of cents worth here. This is a health, moral, criminal, ethical, political, etc., problem. If these walking pus bags that are “teeming with germs” as required Says, can potentially infect the population with HIV, AIDS, TB, Hepititis, etc, because of their criminal behavior, actions and choices, then why aren’t they arrested and quarrantined? Why should they be allowed to roam freely and possibly infect innocent people and create a health hazard epidemic? You think by giving out free needles it will curb this problem? Think again! This smacks in the face of a failed social experiment.

    Posted by taxslave | February 29, 2008, 2:50 am
  14. Taxslave-finally someone here who makes sense.
    Except that the social experiment of exchanging clean needles has been proven for over a decade to arrest the germs when the carriers are free to spread disease.
    When IV drug users are locked up, maybe they should have needle exchanges also? Just look at the MRSA that is epidemic in prison. Jail guards, their families, visitors, and health care workers are put in harm’s way from that.
    I don’t know how someone could hide a needle in jail, but I’d be willing to trade a clean one if they already had a used one.

    Posted by required | February 29, 2008, 12:42 pm
  15. Congratulations, kid. The Press is now stealing from you. Saw they FINALLY got this important story in the paper. Be proud. They only steal from people who get it right…

    Posted by dave202 | March 4, 2008, 2:33 am
  16. the line that says parents will be paying for their child’s habit is stupid. the actual habit itself isn’t being paid for, just the cleanliness of the habit. I’m sure no parents want to see their kids using drugs but if someone is using it’s better for him or her to use a clean needle (and dispose of it in the right way ) as opposed to catching a deadly disease and spreading it.

    Posted by logicalgrl | July 11, 2011, 3:12 am


  1. Pingback: Councilman Bruce Ward: Refreshing Presence On City Council « The Atlantic City Scoop - February 29, 2008

  2. Pingback: Press Reports Free Drug Needle Exchange Not Successful, Big Surprise « The Atlantic City Scoop - January 19, 2009

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