Jan 252004
 
Authors: Jamie Way

BOULDER, Colo. — Despite operating illegally, a needle exchange

program in Boulder called The Works continues to distribute drug

paraphernalia free from prosecution.

Boulder is home to one of the few facilities in the state where

county drug users are encouraged to bring used needles in exchange

for new needles, so that they are able to inject without being

exposed to various illnesses.

In the Colorado Revised Statutes the distribution of drug

paraphernalia, which is defined as all equipment used for

“injecting” or “otherwise introducing into the human body a

controlled substance in violation of the laws of this state” is

explicitly prohibited.

“We’re looking the other way and I support that because of the

greater issue of public health,” said Mary Keenan, Boulder district

attorney.

Keenan said that if anything other than needles were to be

distributed, there could be an investigation, but in the case of

needle distribution she is adhering to the prior district

attorney’s policy of not pursuing charges against the program or

its staff.

“We have decided that the priority is the public health issue,”

Keenan said.

The Works, run by the Boulder County Public Health Department,

has been generally well accepted in the Boulder community.

“We’re known as illegal but tolerated,” said Terrie House, AIDS

prevention coordinator at the Boulder County Public Health

Department. “We’re very well tolerated.”

House said that she might receive one or two calls each year

from people who disapprove of the program, but the general feeling

of the community has been a positive one.

“The community of Boulder has been very supportive,” House

said.

The sharing of dirty needles could lead to the transmission of

various illnesses, such as Hepatitis A and B and the AIDS

virus.

“We just want people to be safe,” House said. “We’re not

advocating drug use. We’re just trying to control the public health

issue.”

The AIDS and HIV rates in Boulder County are low, according to

House.

“I think (The Works) personally does have some impact on (the

rates),” House said.

The Boulder County Police Department’s primary concern is not

arresting The Works’ clients or staff.

“It’s not something that’d be considered a priority,” said Kurt

Weiler, commander of the drug task force.

The program is not something they would generally make arrests

on, but the program would still be investigated if the

circumstances “were more severe or posed a danger to other people,”

Weiler said.

The Boulder County AIDS Project is also in support of the

program, even encouraging people to take advantage of the

program.

“We refer people to the program,” Robin Bohannan, executive

director of the Boulder County AIDS Project.

In 1995, the Boulder County AIDS Project board created a

resolution in supporting the program.

“Our board has felt really strongly that a needle exchange

program should be part of the mission of any public health

department as a way to prevent HIV in that community,” Bohannan

said.

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