Proposed state legislation filed in response to a years-long feud between an Asheville neighborhood and a local needle exchange could threaten syringe exchanges across North Carolina.
“We’ve got an epidemic within a pandemic,” says Kevin Mahoney with the Mountain Area Health Education Center. Social distancing, job losses and drug contamination associated with COVID-19 have all complicated local efforts to manage the impacts of opioid use.
A group of West Asheville residents proposed changes to House Bill 972, the law that legalized needle exchanges throughout the state, that would greatly restrict where and the programs operate.
The Buncombe County Health and Human Services Department will offer syringe services at its 40 Coxe Ave. clinic beginning in July or August, joining the Needle Exchange Program of Asheville and the Steady Collective in providing supplies and education to reduce the harms associated with injection drug use.
On March 1, city spokesperson Ashley Traynum-Carson said in a press release the needle exchange would now be considered a medical clinic after it formalized a commitment to have a medical professional on-site during operation. The process by which Asheville arrived at its new position, however, remains unclear.
Firestorm Books & Coffee and The Steady Collective announced that they had formally appealed their notices of violation on Sept. 17. The appeals will likely be considered at the next meeting of the city’s Board of Adjustment, which takes place on Monday, Oct. 22. If the board rejects the appeals, the groups face civil penalties of $100 for every day they remain out of zoning compliance.