City Needle Exchange Program in Need of New Location if Itʼs to Continue

Must Not be Within Radius of School Drug-Free Zone

If the City wants to continue having a needle exchange program, it will have to find a new home for the project, which has been operating out of the Claremont Soup Kitchen; it has been determined that the space is located within 1,000 feet of a school and therefore not permitted to be there.

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The topic was presented during the City Managerʼs Report at last Wednesday nightʼs council meeting. In a letter from City Manager Ryan McNutt to the council, an update regarding the Dartmouth Harm Reduction Program, “Project 439”, otherwise known as the “Needle Exchange”, was presented on the Syringe Service Program (SSP) run by some Dartmouth medical students. The program took in dirty needles and distributed clean needles and sharp-needle containers among other medical and addiction-related information. “The City generally supported the merits of the project,” wrote McNutt, “but learned that the location being used, the Claremont Soup Kitchen, is within the radius of a schoolʼs drug-free zone. NH Law, according to our analysis, does not permit this activity in such a zone.”

According to McNutt, City and Project 439 staff met on Thursday, Oct. 26, to discuss the finding and work towards an “appropriate and legal location for the project.” Locations discussed include Valley Regional Hospital and the Hope for Recovery Center at 169 Main St. However, the same issue remains: VRH is within Disnardʼs Drug-Free Zone, and the building housing Hope for Recovery, while not within a drug-free zone, is home to an SAU-sponsored activity, One 4 All, possibly preventing that location from being suitable as well.

As a result, further actions will include legal reviews by the SAU 6, VRH and potential legislative amendments to RSA 318-B:43-45 to allow for this activity at a hospital regardless of proximity to a school zone.

In a memo from Mayor Charlene Lovett to the City Manager and Asst. Mayor Allen Damren, Lovett wrote that “Given the seriousness of the opioid crisis and the fact that scientific evidence on addiction shows that SSPs reduce harm in communities, it is my belief that we need to find a solution for the location sooner rather than later.”

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