Friday, June 1, 2007

Recognizing the People Behind Needle Exchange

The centerpiece of our needle exchange celebration was the recognition of our guests of honor: 15 people and organizations who were integral in developing the program. As you will hear, each of them brought something unique and essential to the effort. After all the honorees came up to the stage, BCI Executive Director Sally Allshouse announced that a donation has been made in their honor to the Campaign to End AIDS.

Click here to listen as we pay tribute to the following individuals:

Recognition.mp3 (9:23)

Senator Margaret Rose Henry, for leading the ten year campaign in support of this program.
Representative Helene Keeley, who co-sponsored the bill with Senator Henry.
Secretary Vince Meconi of the Division of Public Health for making HIV and substance abuse related issues a priority.
Dr. Jaime Rivera, Director of Public Health, for assembling the oversight committee.
Mayor James Baker for his commitment to reducing HIV/AIDS in our community.
John Baker of AIDS Delaware, for his persistent advocacy and leadership.
Renee Beaman of Beautiful Gate Outreach Center, for tirelessly supporting this policy change for years.
The Delaware League of Women Voters for garnering support to pass the bill.
Peter Houle of the Delaware HIV Consortium for protecting the bill and combating opposition. (Sorry Peter - I had to change my tape in the middle of your introduction.)
Nicole Leighton of Prevention Point Philadelphia for sharing her expertise and knowledge with BCI.
The Red Ribbon Advocates, who organized a rally and told their stories at Legislative Hall.

In addition, these individuals could not be present but also deserve recognition:

Senator Nancy Cook has been a supporter of initiatives to promote treatment and recovery to Delawareans in need of substance abuse and mental health services. She has continued to help ensure services for Delaware’s vulnerable populations. She has undeniably played an important role in the implementation of the program.

Representative Pamela Meier is an important leader and fighter for Needle Exchange within her party. She is also the chairperson of the House Health and Human Development Committee. This committee was responsible for moving the bill to the House for voting.

Lamont Coger has been running the Baltimore City Needle Exchange for over 11 years. He was there for its inception and has led his organization to provide its service at 17 sites throughout the city of Baltimore mornings, afternoons, nights and weekends. Lamont was vital to the realization of our program here in Wilmington. He hosted our team several times and shared not only his resources and procedures but also his staff and expertise.

Debbie Hamilton has worked tirelessly as a lobbyist to defend and fight for Needle Exchange. The reality of this program is undeniably due to her hard work and diligence. Debbie was able to get legislators to talk about this issue that in the past closed a door to this bill’s advocates. Her knowledge of the legislative process and lobbying helped other advocates to plan appropriate activities and responses to questions. We applaud her efforts.

As Sally said, this is an extraordinary group of people and we in Delaware are very lucky that they came together to make this program a reality. We thank them and we salute them.

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