PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland was the first city in the U.S. to start a taxpayer-funded needle-exchange program to keep discarded needles from ending up in parks.
But the needle exchange program in Gresham was on the chopping block when Multnomah County proposed a 3% cut to all departments as part of next year’s budget.
One of the ideas to meet the proposed cut was to shut down the needle distribution site in Gresham where the county’s mobile van set up a few times a week.
Another suggestion was to stop handing out Sharps containers which are used to safely collect and transport used needles.
The proposals would have saved $200,000, mostly in staffing costs.
But on Thursday, County Commissioner Sharon Meieran — who is also an ER doctor — voted to keep it funded for another year.
Meieran said that while seeking treatment is the best option, needle exchange sites are needed. The program takes in more than 7 million syringes every year.
“It’s better for people living in the vicinity — not having those dirty needles around; provides a place for people to go and better from a cost-savings standpoint,” Meieran said.
Meieran pointed to the cost of treating a single patient with Hepatitis C as costing thousands of dollars.
Multnomah County will look at ways to get other agencies to share the cost of the Harm Reduction Program.