The Rio Dell City Council discussed a needle exchange program at its Tuesday meeting, but the majority of the council opposed the idea. (Times-Standard file)
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The majority of Rio Dell City Council members are against starting a local syringe-exchange program, the city announced.

“I think the council is not in favor of any kind of exchange,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Gordon Johnson on Thursday. “We are in favor of collection.”

Rio Dell doesn’t currently have a needle-exchange program, and after the City Council’s Tuesday meeting, it’s likely the city will remain without one. Syringe-exchange programs offer drug users the opportunity to hand over used and possibly contaminated needles in return for a clean one.

Johnson said he and others on the council do favor collecting dirty needles, but not in return for clean ones.

“The responsible people who would exchange a needle are probably not the responsible people using a needle,” Mayor Frank Wilson said Thursday. “We’re sympathetic to people who have opiate problems, but we also don’t have the resources to make it happen.”

Councilwoman Sue Strahan had requested syringe exchange as an item for discussion on the council’s meeting agenda. No action was required by the item. City Manager Kyle Knopp had confirmed the council would only discuss the item and possibly direct staff to find further information.

Strahan didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

During the meeting, the city announced, the majority of council members opposed the idea.

“To the best of our knowledge, no syringe exchange program is currently proposed for Rio Dell and any group desiring to start one is required under state law to notify the Chief of Police prior to operating an exchange,” the city announced in a released statement.

Needle-exchange is a controversial topic because of its emphasis on “harm reduction,” or encouraging safe practices among drug users.

According to the city’s statement, community members had shared “concern over a possible needle exchange program” ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.

How big of a problem is needle litter in Rio Dell? Wilson told the Times-Standard a local man who cleans up litter around town told him he had never seen a needle out on the street.

Johnson, meanwhile, said otherwise.

“I went jogging this morning and I stepped over one needle,” Johnson said. “I don’t see them every day, but I do see them.

“It’s just discouraging that people throw them out of their vehicles as they’re passing through,” he added.

Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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