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.
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.