Supreme Judicial Court ruling allows privately run needle exchange programs

Groups running private needle exchange programs do not need approval from a local board of health

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Privately-run hypodermic needle exchange programs can now operate without the approval of the state or community.

This ruling was made by the Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday after the nonprofit AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod wanted to help local drug addicts by providing clean needles.

The ruling means that they and other groups can now give clean needles and syringes to drug addicts, without any approval from a local board of health.

The Supreme Judicial Court said a 2006 law that decriminalized distributing hypodermic needles overrides a 1993 law that requires needle exchange programs to have state and municipal approval.

Liz Whynott, the director of Tapestry Health, says the organization is considering how they can increase access to their needles and services because of this ruling.

“This law is basically a step forward in allowing easier access to unused needles for drug users, which has shown to be incredibly effective in decreasing HIV and hepatitis C,” she said.

Tapestry Health is the only hypodermic needle exchange program in Hampshire County.