Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New needle exchange regulations impact both rural and urban programs

A story in the New York Times yesterday discussed the impact of a new federal law that will prohobit the delivery of federal funds to needle exchange programs if the facilities where the needle exchange occurs are within 1000 feet of a school, park, library, college, video arcade or any place where children might gather. This rule would have an impact on a majority of the nation's exhanges, which number about 200.

Journalist Katie Zezima discusses the implications of the law for urban areas, but also notes their impact in so-called rural places. With respect to the urban setting, she writes:
Officials at exchanges in cities like Chicago, New York and Washington say there are few, if any, places that could house a needle exchange under the rule.

Zezima quotes Raquel Algarin, executive director of the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center in Manhattan:
I was thinking, ‘A thousand feet, how much is that?’ ... And then I found myself thinking, ‘We’d probably be doing syringe exchange in the middle of the East River, and any exchange on the West Side would be in the Hudson River.’ How do you work that out?
Zezima then turns to the implications for rural places, writing:

Many advocates also worry that smaller, rural exchanges, which lack the fund-raising abilities and infrastructure of many larger, urban exchanges, will be affected by the 1,000-foot rule.
What strikes me as odd about this is that the example Zezima gives--apparently suggesting that it is rural--is Bangor, Maine, population 31,609. Bangor is in Penobscot County, with a population of about 148,000, which makes it metropolitan. Zezima also mentions three other needle exchanges in Maine, a state often thought of as rural. These three include one a more rural place, Ellsworth, population 6,456, which is in Hancock County, population 51,791.

Other than talking about the fund-raising challenges and lack of infrastructure in less populous places, Zezima does not address rural difference. Specifically, she does not address rural difference in relation to spatiality--which is how it is often seen as relevant to laws that limit placement of facilities and people in relation to schools and other institutions where children are present. For example, policy makers have often complained about laws that ban convicted sex offenders from living within a certain distance from schools, arguing that these laws effectively banish such offenders to rural areas.

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