Grand Rapids, Michigan Mayor Proposes Needle Exchange Program
Grand Rapids, Michigan Mayor John Logie (Ind.) suggested a needle exchange program as part of an anti-drug strategy for the city (Kelley Ross and Monica Scott, "Logie suggests needle exchange program," Grand Rapids Press, January 9, 1997, p. A1).
In his State of the City address on January 9, Logie, who was reelected with over 80% of the vote in 1995, called for the creation of a task force to examine creating needle exchanges to reduce disease transmission among intravenous drug users. The task force would also consider drug policy issues, such as: (1) eliminating mandatory minimums for drug offenders to allow judges to use their discretion in sentencing; (2) changing criminal justice priorities to focus on major drug traffickers and violent crime; and (3) increasing emphasis on alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders. Logie said the drug policy task force would be made up of a "round table of experts" including doctors, law enforcement officials and treatment professionals.
Grand Rapids Police Chief William Hegarty said he would be pleased to participate in the task force, but said a needle exchange plan "will not affect the most serious drug problem," which he said is cocaine abuse. Hegarty said few arrests in Grand Rapids are linked to heroin, but thousands are tied to cocaine (Associated Press, "Grand Rapids mayor wants to consider needle exchange; police chief disagrees," Detroit News, January 11, 1997, http://detnews.com/96/metro/9701/11/01110042.htm).
James Haveman Jr., director of the Community Health Department, said "I personally ... don't support needle-exchange programs, and as a policy won't use state money for needle exchange programs." Haveman said he would rather put the money into drug treatment programs. Bob Barrie, monitor of needle exchange programs for the same department, confirmed that "the state does not endorse, nor does it provide funds for needle exchanges (Associated Press, "Needle exchange idea criticized," Detroit Free Press, January 24, 1997, http://www.freep.com/news/mich/qstate24.htm).
Head of the Kent County Health Department Dr. Douglas Mack said he would participate in the task force. "I look at it from a scientific standpoint, and science says the program works," Mack said.
Mayor John Logie would welcome the support of drug policy professionals. Mayor John Logie, City of Grand Rapids, 300 Monroe, NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503, Tel: (616) 456-3168.