North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Quil Ceda Village - Favorite Neighborhood Stores

M'ville, Health District disagree on needle exchange program


April 11, 2018 | View PDF

Jeffrey Vaughan

The City of Marysville is considering pulling their funding of the Snohomish Health District over the district's plans to expand Everett's needle exchange program.

The Snohomish County Syringe Exchange at 1625 E Marine View Dr. #4 in Everett, is a nonprofit organization that is funded by grants from the Washington State Department of Health and has been active since 1995.

They provide clean needles in exchange for used needles in an effort to reduce diseases such as HIV or hepatitis among individuals with drug addiction issues.

"We have started conversations about operating it under the Snohomish Health District," said Heather Thomas, public and government affairs manager for the health district.

"It could be more fully integrated into our strategies about opioid abuse prevention," said Thomas.

The Marysville City Council disagrees with that strategy however.

"We will do all we can to help turn the tide for this issue, but needle exchange programs and safe injection sites are not the right way to do it in our opinion," said Marysville City Council member Jeffrey Vaughan, who also sits on the Snohomish Health District Board.

Vaughan said that the city's quarterly payment to the Health District is being held currently, as the council wants to make their funding contingent on not supporting safe injection sites or needle exchange programs.

The city was paying the health district $1 per citizen each year, which comes out to around $60,000.

"It sends a bad message," about what is acceptable in the community, said Vaughan.

"It's not something that reduces the presence of drugs in our community," he said.

Vaughan said that sentiment is shared with his constituents as well.

"I'm hearing that from the community as well, overwhelmingly they are opposed to these programs," he said.

Thomas said that there are many benefits to the program, such as the reduction of HIV and hepatitis rates which have been shown in past studies.

"Its an evidence-based, harm reduction program that has been around since the '90s," said Thomas.

By providing a place for those with drug abuse problems to drop off their needles, the program also reduces the number of needles that are littered.

"The program helps reduce the amount of needles found in parks and around store fronts," said Thomas.

The biggest benefit may be the capability of connecting directly with the clients though, said Thomas.

"The needle exchange really is just the carrot to get people into the door," she said.

The Everett program also connects those with addiction issues to services that can help them, provides disease testing, provides naloxone training and helps treat infections.

"It really saves money because they don't have to go to the emergency room later," said Thomas.

Vaughan said that the City of Marysville does have it's own approaches to help individuals who are abusing drugs.

"It is important to point out that there is a lot of work we're doing to combat the drug problem," he said.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said the funding was primarily a council decision.

"I support council member Vaughan's decision that our primary objective is to get those that are abusing drugs out of the downward spiral of addiction," he said.

"Anything not conducive to those efforts should not be supported," he said.

If the Snohomish Health District were to take a more active role in the needle exchange program, it likely would be funded mostly through the Washington State Department of Health grants.

"There is a small amount the Health District would have to assume," said Thomas.

That could come out to around $30,000, which is not that large for an organization that put forward a $17.7 million budget last November, said Thomas.

No final decision has been made yet regarding the Health District's participation in the needle exchange program or Marysville's funding.

The Health District began asking for city assistance a couple of years ago and received support from many local cities beginning in 2017, including Marysville.

"We're doing public health work across these communities," said Thomas, "and these funds helps us to do more targeted specific work in these cities," she said.


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2017