Pubdate: Tue, 26 Apr. 2005
Source: Herald News, The (Fall River, MA)
Copyright: 2005 The Herald News
Author: Marc Munroe Dion
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


WESTPORT-- A needle-exchange program for intravenous drug users will open 
on Route 6 within the next month. The program, the first in Bristol County 
and one of only four in Massachusetts, was approved unanimously by the 
Board of Selectmen Monday night.

The facility will be located at 909 State Road, Route 6, on the site of the 
former Friends Music store, and will be operated Fall River's Stanley 
Street Treatment and Resources center. SSTAR is a health care and substance 
abuse facility. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will also 
offer support.

There are needle-exchange programs in Boston, Cambridge, Northampton and 
Provincetown. Both New Bedford and Fall River have rejected the idea.

SSTAR CEO Nancy Paull sought the selectmen's approval, explaining that 
intravenous drug use is a major cause of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis-C. She 
further explained that these diseases are often transmitted by drug abusers 
sharing needles or using dirty needles.

Addicts who visit the center will be able to exchange dirty needles for 
clean ones, and will receive education and direction on how to get 
treatment for their addictions. The facility will also offer HIV testing.

Paull said Westport is not immune to the ravages of intravenous drug use.

"I have been at SSTAR for 30 years, and we are seeing two admissions a week 
from Westport," she said.

There are approximately 30 residences behind the location, and Selectman 
Steven Ouellette said there will be meetings held with neighbors to let 
them know what will be going on at the site. The vote was not taken as a 
public hearing, so abutters of the facility were not notified.

Former Selectman Dr. Stewart Kirkaldy spoke in favor of the facility, 
saying that the exchange of needles is a way to lure addicts in for treatment.

"I feel very strongly that just the opportunity to engage the addict and 
offer him treatment at an early stage is very important," Kirkaldy said.

When asked if people from neighboring communities would use the program, 
Robert Hitt of SSTAR said they would, at least in part because the location 
is on a bus line.

"I expect people from Fall River and New Bedford will use it," Hitt said, 
adding that he didn't think the facility would see more than 15 people in 
any two-hour period.

Paull said Westport Police Chief Keith A. Pelletier has told her he favors 
the program.

"Certainly, drugs are prevalent in Westport," said Selectman David Dionne, 
who made the motion to approve the project for one year.

"We legally sell pornography on Route 6," Dionne said. "We sell alcohol, 
tobacco and firearms on Route 6."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom