Board of Health to consider discontinuation of needle exchange program Thursday

A meeting of the Grays Harbor County Board of Health has been called for 3 p.m. Thursday to decide the fate of the county’s needle exchange program.

The board is made up of the three County Commissioners. The two newly elected members — Jill Warne and Kevin Pine — have pledged to end the program, where used needles can be exchanged for new, clean needles.

Commissioner Vickie Raines has said she doesn’t like the program, but believes it could be modified and that she will vote to retain it for public health reasons.

A resolution drafted earlier this month was not heard at a special Board of Health meeting Jan. 5 because it had not been included in the meeting announcement posted just a day prior.

At the Jan. 5 meeting, a great deal of public testimony was taken, much of it in support of the program. However, Warne and Pine both said their constituents have told them loud and clear they want the program ended.

Pine said Tuesday that he’d received a lot of calls since last week’s meeting, mostly in support of his stance against the program. He said he and Warne support help for those with drug-addiction issues, but don’t believe the needle exchange is an effective way to address the issue.

County Health Officer Dr. John Bausher is scheduled to speak at Thursday’s meeting, followed by public comment and then consideration of the resolution.

At the meeting last week, Bausher and others in the medical community argued strenuously that the health benefits far outweigh the negative aspects of the program.

The resolution reads, in part, that “the Board of Health believes that the operation of a syringe exchange in Grays Harbor County is not an appropriate use of taxpayer money,” and resolved to “discontinue funding, operation and service of the syringe exchange program on April 1, 2021.”

The meeting will be held via Zoom. (link Participants can provide public comment during the meeting. Written comments can also be submitted prior to the meeting.