Top

blog

Stories

 

Syringe exchange: Denver City Council lifts 1,000-foot school buffer

orange.cap.needle.205x205.jpg
Denver's two syringe exchange programs can now provide mobile services, thanks to an 8-to-3 vote by Denver City Council Monday night to lift the restriction that kept exchanges 1,000 feet away from schools and child care centers.

The goal is to allow exchange programs to reach more of the city's 5,000 injection drug users.

"One of the best things we can do sometimes is get our policies out of the way," said councilman Paul Lopez.

The purpose of a needle exchange is to swap dirty needles for clean ones in order to stop the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C. Exchanges were illegal in Colorado until 2010, when lawmakers legalized them.

In Denver, two organizations -- the Colorado AIDS Project and the Harm Reduction Action Center -- were approved to do syringe exchange. The Harm Reduction Action Center is the bigger of the two programs; in 2012, it gave out 116,671 clean needles and safely disposed of 71,323 dirty ones.

syringe.exchange.opening.jpg
A photo from the 2012 opening of Harm Reduction Action Center's Santa Fe Drive syringe exchange.
Director Lisa Raville says the organization, which conducts exchanges at its location Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon, is currently reaching about 1,300 users. Allowing outreach workers to walk around the city and exchange needles with users in the places where they spend their time will increase the organization's reach, she says.

"We need to be all over the city and county of Denver," Raville says.

The 1,000-foot buffer zone around schools and child care centers (see map below) was so restrictive that the only place it was legal to exchange needles was essentially in the middle of the South Platte River, she says.

Even under the new rules, outreach workers will have to stay out of parks, per an agreement with the mayor's office. Councilman Charlie Brown said Monday night that he'd like them to stay off the 16th Street Mall, as well.

"I am very concerned that this will have a negative effect on our tourism," he said. "To have our visitors see a needle exchange program on the Mall is not the image we want."

Brown was one of the three council members, along with Jeanne Robb and Jeanne Faatz, who voted against lifting the 1,000-foot buffer zone around schools. "I really hope there are not a lot of drug users hanging around Morey Middle School," Robb said. "And if there are, I'm not thrilled with the idea of bringing needles to them."

But councilman Chris Nevitt, who voted for the measure, said that while mobile exchanges might make some people nervous, the public health benefits of clean needles outweighs any concerns. He likened using dirty needles to playing Russian roulette. "The needle exchange program takes the bullets out of the gun," he said.

Councilwoman Robin Kneich added that banning needle exchanges from certain parts of the city won't get rid of the drug use there. "We need to give this a chance," she said.

Below, see a map of the 1,000-foot buffer zones around schools.

1000ft. Zones Around Schools and Child Care Centers

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Michael Jackson verdict keeps Phil Anschutz in the black after King of Pop's tragic death."


Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com


My Voice Nation Help
28 comments
Val Unlisted
Val Unlisted

free needle exchanges have shown to decrease the spread of diseases caused by shared needles.

Mark Ewell
Mark Ewell

The 1000 foot school buffer for any law is dumb. It doesn't protect kids from anything.

Eric Stransky
Eric Stransky

You can buy boxes of them at Walgreens without a script. Got money for drugs, but no supplies? Silly tweekers.

Toby Hartman
Toby Hartman

First and foremost, I would hold him accountable for his actions, and provide him with information on how to quit. I wouldn't, however, give him the tools to keep smoking.

Shayne Barrett
Shayne Barrett

If your child was going to smoke regardless of your punishment and the lighter he was going to use might infect him and countless others with a deadly disease, what would you do for your child then? :P

davebarnes
davebarnes topcommenter

For the children. More drugs faster.

Matt Levan
Matt Levan

Syringes = Good! Regulated marijuana = Bad!

Derek Dwreck Wynn
Derek Dwreck Wynn

At least they are trying to clean it up.... I walked in on a dude shooting up in Civic Center park in a porta potty last year. I just turned and went somewhere else. It was funny startling him he came out running fast as he could. He dropped the needle wrapper on the way out...

Marc Khan
Marc Khan

Lol the pot shop for needles argument is such a valid point. Haha love it!

Robin Caplan Nelson
Robin Caplan Nelson

How about they move the needle exchange outside of 1437 Bannock where the City Council's at!

Lauren Connable Burdick
Lauren Connable Burdick

maybe it is good show kids what actually happens if you go down that route....real knowledge

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

Because pot is wayyyyy more dangerous than syringes with God-knows-what.

Kevin A. Mahmalji
Kevin A. Mahmalji

Right, but it's important to keep the regulated sale of marijuana 1000ft away to protect our children. Alcohol and needles, no big deal. Over 4,000 needles were "cleaned up" around the city as part of the Needle Exchange program's attempt to limit the public safety issue. That being said, the needles that were collected had to of been discarded in a public area at some point before the clean up. The only difference now is they will be discarded closer to schools. I'm not against the program and do see the value of what it offers, but think we need to be serious about the risk.

Toby Hartman
Toby Hartman

"Because they will do it either way" is the lamest excuse for anything. If your child started smoking, would you punish him/her or hand them a lighter?

Gary Allen Krout
Gary Allen Krout

Junkies ok.Pot shops not ok lol. Who votes for these idiots ?

Bret Egan
Bret Egan

Especially great for school aged junkies!

Andrea Mérida
Andrea Mérida

School board member here. This is fine. The mindfulness and responsibility it takes to participate in a needle exchange does not immediately translate into putting the health and safety of kids in peril.

Lou Van Duerm
Lou Van Duerm

I agree there should be a needle exchange but no where near the schools

Lou Van Duerm
Lou Van Duerm

We enable the drug users because they will use the drugs either way. We mine as we'll provide them with clean needles so that they prevent the spread of disease?

Toby Hartman
Toby Hartman

Why are we enabling drug users, especially in a school zone? People have lost their common sense.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Derek Dwreck Wynn A very vivid post, Derek. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Robin Caplan Nelson Wonder how council members would feel about your suggestion? Thanks for posting, Robin.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Kevin A. Mahmalji Interesting post, Kevin. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Andrea Mérida Thanks for weighing in, Andrea. Much appreciated.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Lou Van Duerm Appreciate you sharing your thoughts, Lou. Thanks.

Now Trending

Denver Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...