August 16, 2012
The Board of Health (BOH) in Holyoke voted 3-0 Tuesday to permit the operation of a needle-exchange program. Tapestry Health planned to resume its NEP work the next day, said Timothy W. Purington, its director of prevention services.
At the meeting, supporters of the NEP included some city councilors; Mayor Alex B. Morse; Police Chief James M. Neiswanger; the state Department of Public Health's director of infectious disease, Kevin Cranston; and retired CDC HIV/AIDS researcher T. Stephen Jones.
However, some residents and city councilors opposed the BOH vote during its meeting at City Hall, including Council President Kevin A. Jourdain, who vowed he would seek an injunction to stop the NEP.
"Let me first say you have no authority to adopt a needle exchange," said Jourdain, who cited a former city solicitor's 1996 ruling that an NEP approval would require authorization by the mayor and City Council. "It can't be any more clear than that." Voters rejected the NEP in a 2001 non-binding referendum, opponents noted. They also cited concerns about the NEP's cost, whether it would facilitate drug use, and a possible increase in discarded needles.
Elizabeth Rodriguez-Ross, the current city solicitor, said that under state law, local approval means the consent of the mayor and the BOH. On Aug. 3, she had ordered the BOH to meet again on the issue, saying its July 9 meeting had violated the open-meetings law by not noting that the NEP would be voted on.