Council Approves Purchase Of Van By Health Department

It will be used for a local syringe services program.


Frederick, Md (KM). A needle exchange program is on its way to Frederick County. The Council on Tuesday voted to allow the Health Department to use $29.092 in state funds to purchase a van. Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer says Health Department staff will use the vehicle to travel around the county, and try to get addicts to exchange their dirty needles for clean ones. It also gives her employees an opportunity to persuade these addicts to seek treatment.

In a presentation to the Council, Dr. Brookmyer said hoping that addicts will come forward seeking help is not working. “Our current model of waiting for people to be ready to come into a building is an outdated model,” she said.

In addition to getting addicts to come forward for treatment, Dr. Brookmyer says it also helps curtail the spread of infectious diseases. “What we know for sure, Frederick County—where we’re situated geographically–we’re at high risk for an outbreak of HIV and Hepatitis-C,” she says.

Dr. Brookmyer also explained that the syringe services program is a state-sanctioned program which was approved a few years ago by the Maryland General Assembly.

She also explained that syringe services programs are very effective in getting addicts into treatment. “Research is that people who participate in syringe services programs, even just one time, are five times more likely to engage in treatment than  people who  never had contact with a syringe services program,” says Dr. Brookmyer.

The vote to allow the Health Department to purchase the van was 6-1 with Councilman Phil Dacey in opposition. “What I’m hearing is this program is not ruling out going to places where the local independent municipal leaders have decided that they don’t want this program there,” he said. “It’s possible we’re voting on something that will enable this program to be delivered to communities that don’t want it.”

Dr. Brookmyer said officials in Brunswick and Thurmont have expressed an interest in having this program in their communities.

Councilman Kai Hagen voted in favor. “I understand that somebody might oppose it for their own ideological reasons. But they’re deciding to run contrary to clearly established long term practices, studies, data,. facts, that are well known. widespread, over a long period of time that show the efficacy and the very significant and compelling value of doing this,” he said.

Dr. Brookmyer also said her staff is trained in working with addicts, to get them to get into treatment. “Our staff are specifically trained to help facilitate and coach people along the stages of change,” she said.

Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer , who voted in favor of the van purchase,says she wants to avoid families dealing with a nightmare brought on by drugs. “I don’t want to pick up the phone and find one of my children on the other end, sobbing because somebody else has died, or is in the hospital with an overdose,” she said.


By Kevin McManus