Commissioners kept their promise
Promise Made and Kept
I am seeing a lot of negativity hurled at our newest county commissioners in regard to their votes to discontinue the needle exchange program. I think folks have gotten a little jaded when it comes to politics and are left aghast and taken aback when someone running for office actually does what they set about and claimed they would do.
I find this refreshing and appreciate having people in office that hit the ground running; keeping their word. Lost in all the arguments from health experts and armchair politicians, is the question of what the people want? The citizens of Grays Harbor handed very tidy victories to both freshmen commissioners, knowing full well what their number one campaign pledge was: ending the needle exchange. At the end of the day, all of these programs and the jobs created to administer them, are funded in one way or another by public monies; your tax dollars. Should taxpayers not have a say on the issue? For 17 years this program has operated in Aberdeen and in that time we’ve seen the cost on the city. To those that will say this is heartless, that the Commissioners are dehumanizing addicts and bringing harm to the community, I ask that you just stop for a moment and listen to yourself. What an awful thing to say. Every one of us in this county, and that goes for our commissioners as well, have been touched by addiction in one way or another. We have lost loved ones. But let’s not mince words. Enabling programs are government subsidized, slow assisted-suicide operations parading around as “best practices” and “harm reduction.” They are anything but. I thank the commissioners for having the courage to make a really tough decision to do better by our community and look forward to what they bring to the table in the coming years.
Clean needle program saves lives
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