It took seven months to make the decision but on Wednesday the Board of Health approved a needle exchange program.
The board approved the letter authorizing the state Department of Health to pursue a vendor for such a program. The state will now take over the process of funding, issuing a request for proposal, and ultimately opening a site. The issue had been before the board since August, neared a vote in December, and then was pushed until March.
It wasn't long ago when a young man came to the Brien Center looking for help after he had overdosed on heroin.
Dr. Jennifer Michaels, the center's medical director, got him into sober housing, meetings, and family support. He "did all the things he needed to do."
The first public engagement session about a needle exchange program is scheduled for Tuesday.
The city is considering authorizing a needle exchange program to operate in the city and the Board of Health was close to voting to give that authorization last month. But, the board decided to hold off and in conjunction with the mayor's office launch a series of public sessions to gain additional feedback and inform citizens about the program.
At the request of the mayor and City Council, the Board of Health has put the brakes on the opening of a needle exchange program.
Just one month ago the board was ready and planning to vote in favor of giving the authorization to allow Tapestry Health to pursue opening one somewhere in the city in tandem with the state Department of Public Health.
The nonprofit health agency was given approval on Monday night by the Redevelopment Authority to operate out of 6 West Main St., a building owned by the city and formerly used by the School Department. It received approval from the Board of Health in June.
It is very unlikely the City Council will change the mind of the Board of Health when it comes to opening a needle exchange. But, the Board of Health does want to wait until the council has a chance to weigh in before making the decision.
The decision whether or not to authorize the state to fund a needle exchange program in the city should come next week.
The Board of Health is the authority needed to authorize the program and is expected to take up the topic next Wednesday. Tapestry Health is looking to open one through funding from the state Department of Health to combat the spread of infectious diseases, similar to the one opening in North Adams in the coming months.
City officials are looking into whether a needle exchange program will help halt the spread of infectious diseases.
In the face of a heroin epidemic, a needle exchange program is one way to help users avoid spreading diseases - particularly Hepatitis C. Syringe Access Program Director for Tapestry Liz Whynott says her organization currently runs two programs in Western Massachusetts - one in Holyoke and one in Northampton - and provides a way for users of injected drugs to have access to clea