Harm Reduction: Pittsburgh Needle Exchange Wins Health Board Approval for Continued Operation

Prevention Point Pittsburgh, the sole needle exchange provider in the Pittsburgh area, is one step closer to being allowed to continue to operate after the Allegheny County Board of Health Wednesday approved regulations formalizing its operation. The exchange program had come under attack in April, when county council members questioned its legality in what was in large part a bureaucratic spat between the council and the health board.

"We're incredibly pleased," Renee Cox, executive director of Prevention Point Pittsburgh, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Thursday. "All in all, it's worked out well. It does grant us a little more permanency now that we have formal regulations."

It was a bumpy ride, though. After county council members complained in April, the health board in May drafted regulations that would have required people exchanging needles to give their names and other identifying information and would have banned "secondary exchanges," where people pick up needles and then distribute them to others not in the program. The board heard those complaints.

"They restored anonymity of exchangers, which is absolutely fundamental to the operation of the needle exchange," Cox said. "They also allowed for secondary exchange, which will expand the reach of this small program."

The new regulations must still be approved by the county council.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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