Alachua County commissioners unanimously approve needle exchange program

The commission’s approval means an organization can start a needle exchange program per state guidelines
Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 11:58 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Alachua County commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance to bring a needle exchange program to the county.

“It’s been proven again and again to save lives and that’s what we’re about here,” said chairman Hutch Hutchinson. “We as a local government cannot actually fund the needles, that we have to go out and raise private money for. And I’m gonna work with the community foundation of North Central Florida and maybe the health planning council or other organizations to raise the relatively modest private money so that we can make this available to folks that are addicted.”

Some requirements in the needle exchange program ordinance include: an oversight system to ensure compliance, maximum security at needle exchange sites and operate a one-to-one exchange.

“Also have literature there that promotes treatment, promotes people getting help,” added Richard Anderson, the Senior VP and Chief Clinical Officer for Meridian Behavioral Healthcare.

The ordinance intends the program to not only reduce physical risk but address treatment options for those suffering from addiction. Anderson specializes in mental health and addiction programs for adults and children.

“But what we’re really doing is we’re trying to get them to a point where it’s safe they can do the needle exchange,” Anderson added. “We can make sure we’re helping with the sanitary issues and not perpetuate the spread of HIV and other kinds of diseases but also have a platform to try to engage them in treatment.”

The county manager will work with the health department to establish a program that meets all state requirements.

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