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Proposed ordinance to prohibit syringe exchange programs in Pueblo

PUEBLO, Colo. — Pueblo city leaders met on Monday to discuss an ordinance that would prohibit the exchange of syringes in Pueblo’s city limits.

Some Pueblo City Council members said they’re seeing an increase of dirty or used needles in public parks and trails. They believe programs that help properly dispose of them are not working so they need to find another solution.

“Maybe they’ll be less needles, I guess we won’t know until we find out, but so far it’s been a complaint and no one has done anything,” Councilwoman Regina Maestri said.

Cynthia Robinson, who is experiencing homelessness, said it’s because of these programs, parks are a lot safer.

“If we didn’t have this program, I think you would see a lot more needles everywhere,” Robinson said.

Access Point’s program allows people to drop off used needles for proper disposal and get clean ones.

“The constituency is having a hard time believing that someone is shooting up and properly disposing of their needle and that is what the programs are meant for,” Maestri said.

In the last nine months, Access Point reports about 56% of needles it hands out are returned to the office or at one of the kiosks around town.

“We do have fear that things can get a lot of worse and we are fearful for infectious disease rates spreading and what that can look like for our community and accessing care and treatment,” Access Point’s Behavioral Health Manager Tori Cervi said.

Robinson gives out clean syringes she gets for free at Access Point.

“I have friends that do, family so i always try to get clean equipment, it’s always a helpful thing to get people out there with clean stuff,” Robinson said.

City leaders believe the improper disposal of these items increases threats to the public’s health, property, safety and welfare.

The Pueblo Syringe Access Program, located at two different locations, is an anonymous program that offers unused clean syringes and other injection equipment for free to those who inject substances.

No photo ID is required when exchanging.

The program was created to help reduce infections such as HIV, HCV and many others.

Some of the services that access sites offer are syringe and injection equipment, overdose prevention, safe injection education, safe disposal for the community, prevention case management and referrals to other local resources.

The sites also offer different forms of equipment like syringes, sharps containers, tourniquets, sterile water, first aid supplies, safer snorting and smoking kits, and hygiene items.

The needle and syringe exchange program has been operating in Pueblo since 2014 and isColorado-wide as there are programs in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Denver, Greeley and Grand Junction.

There are also more than 300 syringe exchange programs located nationally, with some states having none, and others as high as 23.

Pueblo deciding if needle exchange programs should be banned

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