I am deeply ashamed that the two new Board of Health members, Kevin Pine and Jill Warne — who also are County Commissioners, one and the same — would make such a desperately short-sighted and reckless decision as to eliminate the needle exchange in our community. As a teacher of public health, I can attest to the abundant evidence that proves the effectiveness of needle exchange programs as an essential tool in addressing addiction.
It’s called a tool of harm reduction for a reason: it does not eliminate every problem associated with how and why social inequalities manifest in addiction behaviors. But as Dr. John Bausher, our county health officer and local hero said, “It has been proven that drug abuse among participants drops three to five times as fast compared to those who do not participate in exchange programs.”
What needle exchanges do, among other things, is help keep people from getting infected with hepatitis, HIV, and other blood-borne illnesses. That is why people in our community who deal with this every day — our first-responders, police, hospital directors, and public health leaders — all testified, pleaded with these newly-elected officials to keep this service in our community.
As past Grays Harbor Public Health Director Joan Brewster testified, with this decision, those two people have blood on their hands. Though the deaths caused by this decision will not likely be bloody but will be slow, painful, and invisible to the public eye, they will be dead nonetheless.
I hope that community leaders who have the health of every person in our community in mind will find a way to restore this program.
Carolyn Prouty, DVM