Claremont Halts Needle Exchange Because of Proximity to School

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 11/9/2017 12:15:57 AM

Claremont — A needle exchange program started this summer to help keep dirty needles off city streets and provide clean ones to intravenous drug users has been halted indefinitely because the location was within 1,000 feet of a school, which is a violation of a school’s drug-free zone under state law.

City Manager Ryan McNutt said at Wednesday night’s meeting that the council “generally supported the merits of project,” but its location at the Claremont Soup Kitchen on Central Street is about a block from New England Classical Academy, also on Central Street.

The Dartmouth Harm Reduction Program, referred to as “Project 439,” was introduced to the council in July by a pair of second-year Dartmouth medical students.

Louisa Chen and Nasim Azizgolshani told the council their main goals were to “get needles off the street, not transmit blood-borne disease, distribute Narcan (which can save lives by preventing death from overdose) and educate on how to identify overdose.”

Containers to safely dispose of sharp needle containers also were provided with other medical and addiction related material.

The proximity to the school was brought to the council’s attention by Councilor Bruce Temple, and McNutt was asked to look into potential violation of the law. In his report, McNutt told the council Wednesday night the Syringe Service Programs under state law took effect as enabling legislation in June.

He said SSPs are not regulated or licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services and DHHS is still developing administrative rules.

“As you know, the legislation enables SSPs without funding, so DHHS does not have staff to inspect or enforce rules,” McNutt said.

McNutt said city staff met with Project 439 staff on Oct. 26 to discuss two alternative sites: Valley Regional Hospital and Hope for Recovery Center on Main Street.

But the hospital is within 1,000 feet of Disnard Elementary School on Hanover Street, and there is school sponsored activity at Hope for Recovery called One 4 All, which may prevent use of that location as well.

McNutt said the next step is further legal review for possible amendments to the law that would allow the program to continue at the hospital, regardless of its proximity to Disnard.

The school district also will look further into whether the school program at Hope for Recovery prevents the use of that location for needle exchange.

“Those are the two questions,” McNutt said. “We will try to find a more appropriate location for this service.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at

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