From Our Readers

Needle Exchange: “A Great First Step”

With the Holyoke City Council set to vote on the city’s controversial needle exchange program this Tuesday, it’s important for the issue to be approached levelheadedly, with rational thought as the basis for whatever decision will be made. For some folks, the word “needle” is enough to make them reflexively pull away. Its negative connotations are ingrained in most peoples’ psyches from the first time they get a vaccination at the doctor’s office as a child. That and the depiction of drug use and addiction in the mainstream media evoke a powerful emotional reaction from people if they’re not educated about the program and what it entails. This leaves the public vulnerable to the misinformation that can come from elected officials who either see the controversy as a convenient way to drum up fear in an effort to gain votes, or are genuinely misinformed themselves.

One of the main talking points from their corner is that since the inception of the program, Holyoke has become a minefield of dirty needles. It’s an effective way to drum up fear, but it’s not true. Is there any actual evidence aside from vague anecdotal accounts that can prove that needles are more easily found now than before the program was implemented?

Let’s step back and look at what the program is: an exchange. At the bare minimum, there is a 1:1 exchange ratio. As Bill Clinton would say, let’s do the arithmetic: there is no net increase. Unless the exchange is giving more than one needle out per needle brought in, the math for an increase doesn’t work out. When confronted with this logic, most anti-needle exchange folks will tell you, “But even one needle on the ground is too many,” to which I say, “Yes, correct, and that is why we need the needle exchange.”

The needle exchange program exists as a means to reduce the abuse of injected drugs and stop the spread of HIV. Want fewer needles? Work to eliminate addiction and the factors that allow addiction to flourish. Is that an easy solution? No. Is that a solution that will provide immediate results and score political points? Absolutely not. But is it a long-term solution that will serve to solve many of the problems we face here in Holyoke, while leading the way to cleaner streets and healthier Holyokers? Absolutely. If we can address the core of the problem, everything else will more easily fall into place. The NEP is a great first step in this direction, as it not only provides the opportunity to exchange dirty needles for clean ones; it provides injecting drug users with the resources and help they need to find a way out. These programs have, time and time again, been proven to be wildly effective.

I’m not a scientist. But I’ve done some research, and I’ve found that scientists overwhelmingly support needle exchange. A short 15 minutes spent researching the topic will turn up countless arguments in favor of NEPs, and peer-reviewed studies to back those arguments up. I’d highly recommend that all Holyokers take the time to look into the facts about needle exchange programs, get in touch with their elected officials, and have their voices heard.


Kennnedy Shooting Needs Its Deep Throat

Photographic evidence along with eyewitness testimony has already proven that John F. Kennedy was shot by more than one assassin. The Mary Mormon photo clearly shows the profile of a shooter behind the picket fence on the grassy knoll. This was the fatal head shot. I had the occasion back in November of 1993 to speak via phone with one of the eyewitnesses standing directly across from the grassy knoll when the shot was fired. Her name was Jean Hill.  I was watching a PBS As It Happened documentary covering the 30th anniversary of the assassination. Her phone number was listed and I spoke with her for a few moments.  She stated, “The shot fired from the grassy knoll was as clear as daylight.” I thanked her for her time and then realized how I was able to touch history. Let us hope that this event will have its own “deep throat” come forward to reveal what truly happened. 


Author: Advocate readers

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