Massena's Chief Currier wants roundtable meeting before deciding on needle exchange program
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 2:45 pm

By ANDY GARDNER

MASSENA -- Village Police Chief Tim Currier says he continues to research what it would take to start a needle exchange program in Massena.

The next step is to get local, county and state officials in the same room and figure out the options.

"We're in preliminary discussions," Currier said Tuesday morning. "There have been good conversations with people from the (state) Department of Health and at both the county and state level about various programs."

He said those in on the discussion also include Massena Memorial Hospital, local pharmacy representatives and ACR Health.

ACR Health is a non-profit agency that provides services to HIV-positive and other chronically ill patients. They promote prevention and sexual health awareness, their website says. They operate throughout the state and have an office in Canton.

Currier said he isn't going to budge either way until he is feels he knows as much as possible.

"I don't want to take any step without understanding the full scope … of what options are available," he said.

Currier is looking at the needle exchange program in light of an influx of hypodermic syringes being found in public, most of which are believed to come from intravenous drug users.

He released a statement on May 5 saying village police had fielded 61 reports of needles found in the community since Jan. 2013. On April 28, he said police handled 11 instances that month alone.

On May 10, the Massena Drug Free Coalition took 47 volunteers and swept 11 village parks and school yards for used syringes. They found one at the Brighton Street play area.

The needles are biohazards and run the risk of transmitting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

With needle exchange programs elsewhere in the U.S. and the world, IV drug users turn in dirty needles at an exchange point and receive clean ones, no questions asked.

Currier said in his May 5 statement that he isn't entirely sold on the program, but the ultimate goal is to reduce risk to the general public.

"Personally, I am on the fence about this program," Currier said. "Some would argue it's contributing to the drug problem … I don't know if that's true or not.

"It's all about preventing used syringes from being disposed around town."

According to Avert, an international HIV/AIDS advocacy group, one in five IV drug users worldwide is infected with HIV.

"A study of HIV among [people who inject drugs] in New York (City) between 1990 and 2001, found that HIV prevalence fell from 54 percent to 13 percent following the introduction of needle exchange programs," Avert says on its website, citing a 2005 study.

Currier said earlier in the month that he doesn't know of any citizens being stuck with improperly disposed needles and hasn't heard figures, scientific or anecdotal, of HIV and hepatitis rates in Massena.