December 9, 2002
The justices "understood the public health values that were at stake here," said Sarah Wunsch, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts lawyer who represented Landry.
A 1993 law allows communities to host pilot needle exchange programs run by the state Department of Public Health. Four cities -- Boston, Cambridge, Northampton and Provincetown -- sponsor exchange programs that served 3,000 people in the past year, according to Dr. Howard Koh, state public health commissioner.
Needle exchange supporters say clean needles can prevent the spread of deadly bloodborne diseases like hepatitis C and HIV. Jean McGuire, director of the MDPH's AIDS/HIV bureau, said 60 percent of the state's hepatitis C cases and 42 percent of HIV/AIDS cases are related to intravenous drug use.
Lynn does not offer needle exchange, and city officials argue that as they fight a heroin epidemic, they should not be bound by the decisions of other communities. James Lamanna, the lawyer who argued Lynn's case, said that local officials were disappointed by the decision and may lobby the Legislature to restrict the needle exchange law.
12.07.02; Kathleen Burge
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