The Pueblo County Board of Health unanimously voted to adopt a needle exchange program, making it the first county in Southern Colorado to do so.
Two people spoke in favor of the program during a public hearing Thursday afternoon. There was no opposition.
The program will allow drug users to exchange their dirty needles for clean ones. It will be funded by the Southern Colorado AIDS project, a nonprofit agency.
Board of Health member Dr. Michael Nerenberg said the goal is to reduce the number of people with infectious diseases, particularly hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV.
As for curbing the rate of heroin users in Pueblo, Nerenberg said he doesn't expect the program will drastically reduce the number of users but added that it's a future goal of the program. He said the program has proven that it doesn't increase the number of drug users in areas where it operates.
"As far as the argument [of] enabling drug users, they're already able," Nerenberg said. "They use it. They're not asking permission. They're doing it anyway."
The program is expected to start in July. Drop-off and pick-up locations for needles are still being considered. Nerenberg said Crossroads Turning Points will have such a facility but the Pueblo City-County Health Department will not. Organizers also want to have a mobile site so they can access drug users where they are.
Nerenberg said the program will also include an educational component, informing users of treatment options available.