May 9, 2017

The Winston-Salem City Council Needs To RELAX!


The city council just won’t let the idea of zoning syringe exchanges die. The Journal’s Wesley Young reported that yesterday’s Public Safety Committee continued to debate the idea without reaching a conclusion.

The city council will continue to debate Council Member John Larson’s proposal to place zoning restrictions on syringe exchanges next month. I not sure what makes me more upset, the city’s inaction on Dan Besse’s Welcoming City resolution or their flirtation with zoning syringe exchanges.

Council Member Larson’s zoning proposal is an existential threat to Winston’s first and only syringe exchange. The Twin City Harm Reduction Collective has operated without incident for several months now. Still a vocal minority of neighbors in West Salem continue to complain that the presence of a syringe exchange at Green Street Methodist makes them unsafe.

But, that’s the thing about an Opioid epidemic, it’s potentially inconveniencing for the neighbors. People are dying and the City of Winston-Salem is arguing about zoning? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

There’s no evidence that the presence of syringe exchanges leads to an increase in criminal activity in the neighborhoods where they’re located. Twin City Harm Reduction Collective co-founder Collin Miller has presented the city council with studies showing syringe exchanges are nothing to fear. Dirty syringes are something to fear, they lead to HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

Syringe exchanges save lives, without necessarily hurting home values. Putting costly restrictions on syringe exchanges or pushing them into commercial properties isn’t the answer. The couple that spoke at last night’s city council meeting might not want to live near a syringe exchange. But others might be drawn to live around Green Street Methodist because they want to live in a community where neighbors are helping neighbors.

If the Winston-Salem City Council passes zoning restrictions on syringe exchanges and eventually pushes the Twin City Harm Reduction Collective out of Green Street, where would they go? If they got lucky and a donor stepped forward with funding, they could open up a syringe exchange on West Fourth. The building beside of Insight Human Services is vacant. Insight has been on West Fourth for years.

Insight offers a variety of services to substance abuse victims, among those services is Methadone treatments. Methadone is a serious drug. You see folks gathered each day in front of Insight to get their treatment. Though Insight Human Services is in a commercial property, their property is across the street from Winston’s Central Library and Centenary Methodist and a short walk to the Holly Avenue neighborhood.

No one has raised any concerns about Insight’s proximity to the library and they shouldn’t. Insight isn’t a danger to it’s neighbors and neither is TCHRC. Methadone clinics have been around for years, people don’t freak out about them. Syringe exchanges are new to North Carolina, they’re new to Winston, but there’s no cause for alarm.

A few disgruntled West Salem neighbors don’t have any reason to fear a syringe exchange being located in their neighborhood. It’s time for the Winston-Salem City Council to ignore their ‘not in my backyard’ argument. The city council needs to relax and remove syringe exchange zoning from their agenda, just like they removed Dan Besse’s Welcoming City resolution.

Collin Miller and the other volunteers at TWHRC shouldn’t have to waste their time attending one city council meeting after another. Their time would be better spent educating addicts, preventing the spread of diseases and stopping overdoses. The city council should pass a resolution thanking Collin Miller and the volunteers at the Twin City Harm Reduction Collective, instead of hassling them.



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