FEBRUARY 23, 2011
For the first time in more than two decades federal tax dollars will be spent on intravenous needle exchanges for drug addicts because the Obama Administration has creatively designated them as treatment programs that qualify for substance abuse prevention grants.In 2009 the president led the effort to lift the longtime ban on federally funded needle exchanges but he never took the next step of providing the money to support them. In fact, Obama upset much of his base when his 2009-10 budgetcontinued the funding prohibition of needle exchanges for drug addicts. A statement of support for the contentious program was even removed from the White House website and Obama was accused of violating an important campaign promise.This week the Washington Examiner reports that the administration will finally provide money for the controversial needle exchanges, essentially by repackaging them with a different name. Providing junkies with clean syringes is essential to reducing the spread of HIV and other diseases and can help treat drug addiction, according to Obama Surgeon General Regina Benjamin.This determination is based on years of scientific research, Benjamin told the Washington Examiner’s Scott McCabe. So she tweaked the name a bit and now what had “formerly been termed needle exchange” qualifies for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funds. Previously, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded the grants to support state prevention, treatment and rehabilitation projects targeting alcohol and drug abuse. Offering tools to facilitate the abuse hardly seems to fall under that mission.One substance abuse expert quoted in the story opposes taking money from “legitimate treatment programs” to pay for the new syringe exchange, pointing out that “putting a needle in your arm is not recovery.” Another expert in the field compared providing drug addicts with syringes to giving free drinks to treat alcoholism.
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