Bethany Place appeals needle exchange decision

News-DemocratJuly 25, 2013 

A Belleville AIDS service organization has filed an appeal to the Appellate Court of Illinois to operate a needle exchange program.

Bethany Place is asking the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon to reverse an order by St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert Haida.

Bethany Place is one of various statewide needle exchange sites that work to prevent the contracting and spreading of blood-transmitted diseases. The program gives intravenous drug users needles in exchange for safe needle disposal.

Haida ruled in April that the nonprofit, located at 821 W. A St., needs a special-use permit from the city to operate the program.

Bethany Place has not applied for a permit from the city of Belleville.

In June, Mark Peebles, the attorney representing Bethany Place, asked Haida to reconsider the decision that the nonprofit needs a permit.

The group has argued that it distributes items such as syringes and needles, and such "pharmaceuticals" are already allowed by the city's zoning code in areas that are zoned light-industry districts.

Haida had said that the dispensing of medical supplies and needles for intravenous use is not allowed in light-industry districts.

Belleville City Attorney Garrett Hoerner said in June that Bethany Place is not considered part of the pharmaceutical packaging industry just because the group distributes needles.

The city has asked for Bethany Place to be fined for violating city code. The fine could be more than $1.2 million, calculated from a $250 to $1,000 penalty for every day the group has operated the program.

Haida said he will consider fining the group if the group continues to operate the program. Peebles has said he advised Bethany Place workers to cease the program after Haida's decision.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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