MANCHESTER, N.H. – A discussion on needle exchange programs at Veterans’ Park will be on the agenda later this month after concerns were discussed among the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) on Tuesday.
The issue first came before the BMA Committee on Public Safety regarding an amendment to city ordinance that would prohibit syringe service or needle exchange programs in city parks, but does not prohibit such programs in other locations.
This amendment is geared in response to New Hampshire Harm Reduction, a non-profit group that provides needle exchange services at Veterans’ Park on Sunday afternoons.
Manchester Health Department Director Anna Thomas believed that such needle exchange programs are only appropriate when they can be connected with other needed services such as vaccinations for Hepatitis-A and HIV testing and treatment counseling.
As a veteran, Thomas also felt that holding the service in Veterans’ Park specifically was inappropriate.
Bill Barry (Ward 10), said that needle exchange programs are also a nuisance to others using parks, citing a track meet he went to once at Derryfield Park following a needle exchange event where hundreds of used needles were littered in the premises.
The issue came before the full BMA later in the evening during new business when Joseph Kelly Levasseur (At-Large) asked Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig if the needle exchange program could be moved, given its proximity to memorials to veterans.
Craig replied that her office has been dealing with this over a year and written concerns have been sent to New Hampshire Harm Reduction and the State of New Hampshire regarding the exchanges.
“No city park is an appropriate place for a syringe exchange programs and there are other parts of the city to do that,” said Craig.
Anthony Sapienza (Ward 5) repeated criticism of New Hampshire Harm Reduction, calling them “knuckleheads” and asserting that they will provide ten needles for every one exchanged.
“To think that they will cooperate at all is ridiculous,” he said.
Sapienza also voiced frustration with the State of New Hampshire for their lack of cooperation with the city in finding another location for needle exchange services.
The ordinance change is expected to return to the BMA in two weeks.