GREENFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The health department met with health officials and community members, Wednesday night, to discuss prevention measures in Greenfield.
Health officials believe a needle exchange program will work best to stop the spread of disease, especially Hepatitis C. Over the last 5 years, Greenfield has seen a 53% increase in Hepatitis C infections among its young population, according to Health Director Nicole Zabko.
Hepatitis is spread through blood and by sharing needles. In a needle exchange, drug users turn in used needles, and receive a free sterile needle. Currently, the only needle exchanges programs in western Massachusetts are in Northampton and Holyoke.
Liz Whynott of Tapestry Health told 22News, “The ability to provide access to syringes is incredibly important. It’s really the most important thing to reduce the spread of Hepatitis C.”
The program cost between $90,000 and $400,000, depending on the size of the town. State money and town tax dollars would fund the needle exchange program.
The next step is for the Greenfield Town Council to vote. “Then what that allows us to do is put out a request for information or a procurement, to have an existing contracted HIV prevention provider to deliver those services,” said Dawn Fukuda, the Director of HIV/AIDS at the Department of Health.
Greenfield Town Council member Penny Ricketts told 22News the town council could vote as soon as August.