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Report: Needle Exchange Program Finds Mixed Success in Atlantic City

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Atlantic City, N.J.’s needle-exchange program — the state’s first — has succeeded in its primary mission of collecting dirty needles from drug addicts in exchange for clean ones but has had less success getting addicted individuals into drug treatment, a new report concludes.

The review of the first year of the program showed that the program gave out more than 60,000 needles, far more than other needle exchanges in Camden, Paterson and Newark, the Press of Atlantic City reported Jan. 19. About half of the used needles were later returned in exchange for clean ones.

However, the Atlantic City program ranked last among the state’s four needle exchanges in terms of referrals to drug treatment, with only 74 referrals made. Program coordinator Therese Wilkerson said that staff must walk a fine line between wanted to get clients into treatment and scaring them off by pushing too hard.

However, referrals seem to have gotten less frequent as time has gone on, dropping to just one or two a week, according to Alan Oberman, CEO of the John Brooks Recovery Center.

Still, said Oberman, “I think they’ve done a terrific job. It also hasn’t been a disturbance to the area. That’s important regarding perception in the community and all the fear attached to the program. Maybe people can see there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

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