Across Colorado, advocates say needle exchanges are necessary to stem the rising tide of blood-borne infectious diseases, which are rising at alarming rates amid an epidemic of heroin and illicit prescription drug use.
The El Paso County Board of Health will begin formal discussions Monday on whether to green-light the Pikes Peak region’s first syringe exchange program. No vote is expected. If approved in coming months, Colorado Springs would join every other major Front Range city in turning to a program hailed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a key means to combat the life-altering and expensive diseases that have accompanied the nation’s epidemic of heroin and illicit prescription drug use.
Already, the proposal faces long odds of passage. Opposition emerged last week when the El Paso County commissioners unanimously voiced their disapproval in a resolution opposing the concept. It quoted Sheriff Bill Elder as being “adamantly opposed.”
“We need to do a better job of getting people off drugs, not giving people tools to use them,” said the sheriff’s spokeswoman, Jacqueline Kirby.
The Board of Health – which has the final say – voted down a similar proposal in 2013 by a 6-to-3 margin, amid concerns that it enabled drug use, and that its proponents did not get enough public input before seeking approval.
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