Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley joined with leading Democrats and public health advocates at the State House Thursday to urge Governor Mitt Romney and Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey to support life-saving legislation that would legalize over-the-counter sale of hypodermic needles.
The group, including Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman Phil Johnston, state Senator Robert O’Leary, state Senator Steven Tolman (D-Brighton), and public health advocates, urged the Romney/Healey administration to approve the bill following the House’s overwhelming support Thursday morning. The Senate was expected to enact the bill Thursday afternoon.
“Kerry Healey is playing a dangerous political game with the public health of Massachusetts residents,” said Phil Johnston. “This is a bipartisan bill that will help stem the spread of deadly illnesses. It’s time for Kerry Healey to stop acting in her own self-interest and start doing what’s right for the people of the Commonwealth.”
The bill passed by the Legislature is already on the books in 47 other states. Massachusetts, Delaware, and New Jersey are the only states that have not approved the bill.
“Based on the findings of several states that have already adopted similar legislation, there is no evidence that giving the public access to syringes will increase rates for crime and/or drug abuse,” said Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley. “Adopting this bill is a cost-effective measure that would help prevent the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases. Although studies reflect the benefits of increased syringe access, common sense tells us that adopting this legislation will put the Commonwealth on the path towards prevention of deadly infectious diseases.”
Senator Robert O’Leary, chief sponsor of the bill, called Kerry Healey’s objection to the bill “unconscionable.”
“The governor and the lieutenant governor are really playing politics and we know and they know that they are playing to people’s prejudices,” he said.
Senator Tolman said the Senate would override a Romney/Healey veto.
“This will help stop the hearts of moms and dads from being broken and will save millions of dollars that are being used in our healthcare system,” said Senator Steven Tolman (D-Brighton).
Boston Mayor Tom Menino said, “One of the most important things that I’ve learned in all my years as Mayor, is that you don’t play politics with public health. This initiative will save lives, pure and simple. Forty-seven other states have figured that out. I applaud the Legislature for passing this bill and I urge them to override any veto with the same overwhelming margin with which they passed the bill in the first place. It is the right thing to do.”
Boston Public Health Commission Executive Director John Auerbach called the bill a win for public health and public safety.
“Not only will this help prevent new cases of HIV and Hepatitis C, but it will make our communities safer for all residents,” he said.
Larry Day, a former drug user now fighting to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, was one of nearly 100 activists from the Aids Action Committee who denounced Kerry Healey for opposing the bill.
“I am absolutely appalled and frightened as a citizen and a registered voter of this Commonwealth that a candidate for the highest state office stood before the media and the public and fear mongered her way into making people believe that this is the wrong thing to do. We need someone with real compassion in the Governor’s Office, not Kerry Healey.”