Kalamazoo Commission OKs needle exchange program

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo City Commission has authorized a nonprofit to run a needle exchange program in the city for the first time.

Commissioners met electronically and unanimously approved the Community Outreach Prevention and Education Network request. The nonprofit will be allowed to operate a needle exchange program for two years and can apply for an additional two-year extension if data shows the exchange is effective.

City commissioners passed an ordinance last year allowing groups like COPE Network to apply for authorization.

COPE Network in Kalamazoo. (April 20, 2020)

Nancy King, executive director of the COPE Network, says the program will have a positive impact on community health.

“People who inject drugs are at risk to communicable diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C, as well as other soft-tissue disease and other infections, and by making sure that people have access to safe paraphernalia allows them to be able to reduce those risks of potential infection,” King said.

The program will also connect people to community resources that can provide addiction treatment, disease testing or other health care services.

Public comment Monday took the form of recorded phone messages after racial slurs and anti-Semitic language were used at the last meeting by teenagers interfering on Zoom in what’s known as “zoom bombing.”

No one spoke against the needle exchange program but one person felt the city is violating the Open Meetings Act by using recorded messages that can be censored. The mayor says the process is compliant with the Open Meetings Act.