Vermont: Health Department Allows Needle Exchange to Continue
February 4, 2003
Vermont's Department of Health announced it would allow Vermont CARES to continue its needle exchange program in the town of St. Johnsbury, provided it complies with several conditions. Health Commissioner Jan Carney sent a letter to Town Manager Mike Welch outlining steps the program must take.Adapted from:
Kendall Farrell, executive director of Vermont CARES, said the organization is currently formulating a response to the health department. She declined to comment on whether or not the program would continue under the new conditions. While some of these are feasible, she said, others -- like additional staff training -- would come at added expense. The department's requirements resemble those set forth last month by the Community Health Advisory Committee, headed by the CEO of Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, Paul Bengtson, and the St. Johnsbury Board of Selectmen.
Vermont CARES must change the structure of the needle exchange community advisory board within three months. It must also train outreach workers to deliver needles to clients and create written policies about how many needles can be distributed at one time. For each needle distributed, clients have to return one. Additionally, Vermont CARES will be required to establish a formal agreement with Tri-County substance abuse services to incorporate treatment referrals and counseling into the program, and it must create a community-based system for measuring and reporting the needle exchange program's effectiveness.
"I'm very happy the Department of Health basically agreed with our community advisory board and the recommendations they put together," said St. Johnsbury Selectman Dale Urie. "The only thing better was to actually shut the program down."