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County says no to needle exchange

By Rick Sherman
Sun Advocate Reporter

The Carbon County Commission strongly opposes an intravenous drug user needle exchange program, and has made it clear that any such programs that are brought into the county could result in prosecution.
A resolution was passed during the regular Commission meeting of May 17 formally opposing the program. The resolution says the Commission finds the detrimental effects of introducing such a program outweigh the potential benefits for a number of reasons.

Encourage abuse

The County finds that a needle exchange program is likely to encourage illegal drug use by making it easier to obtain needles and other paraphernalia. Deputy County Attorney Christian Bryner said, “The resolution echos a lot of the points that Sheriff Wood made to me in a memo. The group that intends to come in and may in fact, be operating here, is providing not just needles, but whole kits that can be used for needle exchange. The only thing that needs to be done is to obtain the heroin.”
Sheriff Jeff Wood said, “If it’s done the way this group wants to do it, it’s a clear violation of the paraphernalia laws.” The kits, or “works,” also include a cotton filter, a tourniquet and a “cooker.” He added, “The Utah Legislature has allowed needle exchange programs to exist, but it says nothing about the works.”
Sheriff Wood noted the private entity that plans to bring the needle exchange program to Carbon County, Harm Reduction, intends to operate on a random, clandestine basis without any oversight of local authorities. “As I understand it, they want to come in twice a month in an unmarked van and go door-to-door providing needles,” he said.
The Utah Harm Reduction Coalition was formed two years ago to reduce the spread of communicable infections such as hepatitis C and HIV due to the sharing of dirty needles.
One provision of the resolution states that habitual drug users cannot be relied on to exchange their needles and discard them appropriately, so any such program will greatly increase the number of needles being carelessly discarded, including where children could find them.
The resolution further affirms the County’s belief that a better policy is to continue to prohibit the distribution of illegal substances in Carbon County, rather than to facilitate and make easier the illegal use of such substances.
The Sheriff stated, “I don’t know that we should encourage drug use. We have found better solutions, including the use of Naltrexone.” Naltrexone is a medication that taken daily, blocks the effects of opioid drugs, and is also used in the management of alcohol dependence.
Finally, the resolution directs the Sheriff to investigate any such programs that may be brought into the County to ensure compliance with the law, and to cite and prosecute violations of law associated with any needle exchange program.

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