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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

WHAT Were They Thinking?

Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.
Carl Jung (1875–1961), Swiss psychiatrist

It is hard to imagine what they thought would happen. A West Yarmouth man, Obed Story, went to the -based Aids Support Group Exchange, and gave them 1,300 used and contaminated needles. They sent him away with 1,300 clean ones, after thirty-five minutes of counseling. Since Obed Story then had enough needles to inject himself twice a day for the next year and nine months, it must have been some conversation.

The Cape Cod Times reported the story (HERE) as did Cape Wide News, and the reaction from law enforcement was generally thunderstruck. Yet while it is considered unusual to have so many at one time, the Times reports that it has happened before, and in the words of Rick Shaw, needle exchange coordinator at the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod in Provincetown, ''If somebody brings in that amount, then they are entitled''. (Entitled?)

Have they never heard of vouchers? I.O.U.'s? What earthy legitimate use could any addict have for 1,300 needles? Indeed, how often has the Aids Support Group given away more than 1,000 needles to a single person after a half-hour of counsel - in a single block?

Of course, the Needle Exchange must have realized that Obed Story was collecting the needles from others, and was probably giving back clean ones - possibly as an extra bonus with a purchase, based on the amounts of heroin also seized at the time. When the police arrested him, 600 of the needles were already used. Porcupine wonders why the police chose to take the clean needles as evidence, while leaving the contaminated ones - surely, they should have been taken and disposed of as hazardous waste.

Porcupine is exasperated by this event. In his own way, Obed Story was performing a public service, functioning as a one-man needle exchange program, and deserves perverse credit for keeping over 1,000 biohazardous needles out of the way of the pubic. But that is not how the four programs (yes, there are only four state-wide, since being created in 1993) are supposed to work. The idea is that addicts would come in, exchange needles, and get counseling and other services. I doubt that Mr. Story was providing much in the way of counseling - which makes me wonder exactly what we are paying the Provinctown counselors to do. Last year, the Aids Support Group received $900,000 of their $1.5 million budget from the Dept. of Public Health, much of it for the counseling services that they ostensibly provide to addicts.

Perhaps we would be better off installing machines at doctor's offices and the hospital, similar to those for empty bottles and cans, that would dispense pharmacy vouchers to those who feed in needles. It's better than relying on Obed Story, who probable won't be around for a while, and a far sight better than paying a group of self-involved counselors who give 1.6 seconds of counseling with every needle dispensed.


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