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Commissioner voice opposition to needle exchange - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Commissioner voice opposition to needle exchange

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COLORADO SPRINGS -

El Paso County Commissioners do not want to have a needle exchange program in the community. The board took the unusual step Thursday of passing a resolution declaring opposition to a proposal brought forward by the Colorado Health Network.

However, the commissioners do not get the final say. Instead, the County Board of Health will decide whether or not to approve the program. 

Commissioner Peggy Littleton explained that she and her colleagues passed the resolution in order to draw public attention to the proposal and encourage people to attend Monday's Board of Health meeting.

"This is something that's going to impact citizens not just in the near future but for possibly decades to come," Littleton said.

Bill Mead, president of the Colorado Health Network board of directors, told the commissioner that increasing access to needles helps reduce the spread of infectious diseases like HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis C. 

"We are really, truly, honestly trying to increase the health of our fellow people in this community," CHN board president Bill Mead told the Board of County Commissioners on Thursday.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Robert Weber, MD also addressed the board and encouraged them to support the program.

"The best data that we have comes from the Centers for Disease Control about this and they looked at syringe access programs from a whole variety of different aspects and have concluded that they reduce harm for the people that are involved," Weber said.

But many of the commissioners disagreed with the data. Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez Jr. serves with Littleton as liaison members of the Board of Health. He said the CDC data showing a decrease in infectious diseases start in 2008, three years before the first needle exchange was implemented in Boulder County.

"Then when I go to a separate website where you can see year-by-year and it goes back to 2011, it actually shows flatness and I think Boulder actually went up one point," Gonzalez said. 

What's more, Littleton said she doesn't really like the results they've seen from a similar exchange program started in Pueblo where hundreds of thousands of needles have turned up in parks and other public areas.

"The research that I looked at actually shows that it increases that, that drug use actually increased when needle exchange programs were implemented," Littleton said.

The County Board of Health will meet Monday at 7:30 a.m. in 1st Floor Assessor's Classroom at the Citizens Service Center,1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road.

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