City ends needle exchange after nearly three decades

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — After 26 years, the City of New Haven is out of the needle exchange program, saying that new state Department of Health mandates for the program are things they just aren’t equipped to provide.

“The city’s Department of Public Health wasn’t set up to provide mental health services, substance abuse counseling and the list of comprehensive things the state is looking for,” said City Spokesman Laurence Grotheer.

New Haven was one of the first cities in the nation to adopt the program. Where intravenous-drug users can come and get clean needles. The goal was to cut down on HIV, Hepatitis C and other infections among people who inject drugs. The Yale School of Medicine operates a community health van, that will pick up in the city’s absence.

“The municipal syringe exchange program was more restricted in the hours it could operate,” said Grotheer. “Community health providers are more flexible. They can work weekends. They can work late night or overnight to respond to demand for clean syringe.”

The Connecticut Department of Health is working with New Haven and the future service provider of the needle exchange program to ensure a smooth transition, with no gaps in coverage.

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