Denver City Council removes buffer zone for needle exchanges near schools

DENVER — A move by Denver City Council Monday night has some parents worried about needle exchanges taking place near to schools.

City leaders approved a plan that would remove the buffer that kept needle exchanges at least 1,000 feet away from schools.

The city council voted to remove the restriction and now needle exchanges can happen right outside school fences.

The old law provided a safety zone that forced workers with the programs to keep their distance from campuses.

“I am not wanting needle exchanges around schools,” says Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz, who voted against the measure.

The exchange programs exist to provide thousands of I-V drug users in Denver with clean needles to prevent the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Program workers say the buffer zone kept them from getting to some of the drug users they need to reach.

Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown voted against the proposal. He pointed out the needle exchanges could also now take place along the 16th Street Mall, the city’s number one tourist attraction.

“The idea that we’re going to have people walking up and down the mall with needles to exchange with drug addicts is just ridiculous,” Brown says.

Councilman Paul Lopez summed up the majority opinion, “The more dirty needles we can take out of the population, into the right disposal… the more people we can contact and get off substance abuse the better.”

The buffer will remain around parks in the city.