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Claremont needle exchange program discontinued due to proximity to school

Union Leader Correspondent

November 09. 2017 9:30PM
Used drug paraphernalia found by Save NH Keene Hates Heroin in Keene city parks is shown in this August 2015 photo. (Meghan Pierce/File)

CLAREMONT — The state’s first needle exchange program has been discontinued by Claremont city officials due to its proximity to a city school.

Opened by medical students at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine in June, the Dartmouth Harm Reduction Program, referred to as “Project 439,” was run out of the Claremont Soup Kitchen.

A new law signed by Gov.Chris Sununu legalized running such a program, which allows drug users to exchange used needles for clean ones.

City Manager Ryan McNutt said Wednesday that the medical students had approached the city in April about the project and opened the needle exchange facility soon after the law was passed.

City councilors recently asked McNutt to look at the location of the needle exchange facility, which happens to be within the city’s drug-free school zone.

“New Hampshire law according to our analysis does not permit this kind of use in this zone,” McNutt told city councilors Wednesday night.

McNutt said city officials are working with the Dartmouth students to find another location in the city, but it has proved difficult so far.

Valley Regional Hospital would gladly host the program, McNutt said, but it too is within a drug-free school zone. He added that hospital officials are currently working to determine whether hospitals can be exempt from that law.

“In June this year the state passed a law enabling legislation that allows for syringe service programs, but the state didn’t pass any funding or regulations or any guidance through the Department of Health and Human Services on how to regulate these programs. They are working on these regulations right now,” McNutt said.

The program took in dirty needles, as well as distributed clean needles, and gave out Narcan, a drug that reverses overdoses.

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