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
“We’re looking the other way and I support that because of the
greater issue of public health,” said Mary Keenan, Boulder district
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
“We have decided that the priority is the public health issue,”
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
The sharing of dirty needles could lead to the transmission of
various illnesses, such as Hepatitis A and B and the AIDS
“We just want people to be safe,” House said. “We’re not
advocating drug use. We’re just trying to control the public health
The AIDS and HIV rates in Boulder County are low, according to
“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,”
The Boulder County AIDS Project is also in support of the
program, even encouraging people to take advantage of the
“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