Board of Health approves discontinuation of local syringe exchange

After over two hours of public comment, the Grays Harbor Board of Health voted on Thursday to end the local syringe exchange program.

In 2004, Grays Harbor began the local program, but Commissioners Kevin Pine and Jill Warne have spoken out saying that they feel it is not an appropriate use of taxpayer money and that it is doing more harm than good.

The local board, consisting of the Grays Harbor Commissioners, heard from local residents both for and against discontinuing the program.

Numerous local health officials spoke out at the meeting on the benefits they saw for continuing it, including ancillary impacts such as distribution of Narcan and access to provide individuals with information on drug addiction and recovery.

Former Grays Harbor County Public Health and Social Services Director Joan Brewster, who said that she was part of the implementation of the nation’s first syringe exchange program some 30 years ago, said that while the concerns about needles on streets exists now, it could be worse if it was discontinued.

Many residents and politicians spoke for ending the program, saying that the benefits of providing needles is not greater than the impacts it causes on the local business economy and communities.

Aberdeen Mayor Pete Schave spoke at the meeting, with his concerns.

Prior to a vote on the resolution, Commissioner Pine said that the benefits seen with the program should continue somehow, but the needle exchange should end.

After the public comment, the Board of Health voted 2-1 for ending the program, with Commissioner Vickie Raines being the sole vote to continue.

Grays Harbor County will discontinue funding the operation and service of the Syringe Exchange Program on April 1, 2021. 


Syringe with insulin for a cat
Melissa Wiese from Fresno, CA, United States of America, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons