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Manchester mayor backs needle exchange

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 22. 2018 10:00PM
In this image taken from video, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig appear in a live interview about the opioid crisis on the Washington Post's website on Thursday. (

MANCHESTER — Mayor Joyce Craig said Thursday that she wants to see a location open in Manchester where addicts can exchange used and tainted needles and get information about treatment.

Craig discussed a needle exchange during a Washington Post Live interview in Boston on Thursday, where she and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh discussed their cities’ response to the opioid epidemic. She elaborated her thoughts in a subsequent interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Craig said discussions about a needle exchange are very preliminary. The council she appointed to address addiction and drug issues has discussed the matter, she said.

“There’s not a time or a location at this point. It’s something that’s being discussed,” Craig said.

Craig said she favors the idea.

A needle exchange would reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, she said. And it would give health professionals an opportunity to counsel and educate users, something she said would have to be a part of a Manchester exchange.

In 2016, then-Gov. Maggie Hassan signed legislation legalizing needle exchanges. But the state did not provide any funding for the exchange, said Tym Rourke, director of New Hampshire Tomorrow, an effort by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to address substance abuse.

Three needle exchanges have opened in New Hampshire, he said.

One opened in Claremont and then closed after complaints surfaced that it was too close to a school, Rourke said. Others have opened in the Rochester-Dover area and in Nashua. He said all are privately funded.

Craig and Walsh differed on one point.

Craig said New Hampshire has to do more to provide treatment to drug users in their hometowns, where she said friends and family can provide support. She noted that about 60 percent of Safe Station users originate from outside Manchester.

But Walsh, a recovering alcoholic, said “you have to get out of the neighborhood you’re in to clear your head.”

Rourke agreed that some people have to get out of bad situations to begin recovery; others find support in their hometown.

“There are multiple paths to recovery. What we need to do is give people choice,” Rourke said. He said urban centers will always be a hub for social services.

Walsh said he opposes legal injection sites, where users could go to shoot up drugs in safe conditions. Such sites, nicknamed shooting galleries, have opened in a few American cities. Craig told the Union Leader she would oppose a legal injection site in Manchester.

Craig noted that Walsh talked about many efforts underway in Boston: a dedicated 311 phone line to get help; regulations for sober houses; a broad range of recovery and treatment options; a program for prevention and intervention in schools. Meanwhile, New Hampshire has cut funding for its continuum of care facilitators.

“When you talk about all you’re doing in Massachusetts and all the programs you have here, it makes me really understand how far behind Manchester and New Hampshire is,” Craig said.

The full interview can be viewed below:

Public Safety Politics Manchester Heroin

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