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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

COLORADO: Heroin Deaths in Fort Collins Inspire a Need for Needle-Exchange Program


Rocky Mountain Collegian (CO State University) (12.12.11) -

Following three reportedly heroin-related deaths within a month in Fort Collins recently, advocates there contend that the realities of drug use warrant a local syringe-exchange program. In 2010, Colorado passed a law authorizing counties to legally adopt SEPs.

Boulder now has a legal SEP, and Denver is following suit. Larimer County was expected to become the next logical site, but advocates say public discussion on an SEP is almost non- existent.

"We need approval from the local board of health, and we have been hosting these conversations since July," said Jeff Basinger, executive director of the Northern Colorado AIDS Project (NCAP), which leads a coalition in support of SEPs. "We've met three times and provided them with information." Pivotal to Boulder County's approval was support from the local district attorney, law enforcement and a "very progressive" court system interested in taking a public health approach to drug offenses, said Carol Helwig, the county's HIV/STI outreach coordinator. "After the change in law it takes a long time to build stakeholder support and to get all of your ducks in a row. Getting on an agenda for a local board of health takes time. It's a big process," she said. SEP clients are driving down from Greeley, Fort Collins and other northern areas, added Helwig.

"I would say it's split, and I don't know how it's going to go," Larimer County Board of Health member Adrienne Lebailly said of the board's consideration of an NCAP SEP. "Probably in early 2012 there will be some sort of decision." "We also have to consult with other entities," including the district attorney and local law enforcement, she said. County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson said he is not yet taking any formal position.


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