Christopher Hawkins, a recently retired research chemist, has agreed to be Harm Reduction Ohio’s new scientific advisor. Chris will analyze science for us on many issues, from infectious disease rates to drug checking.

On Tuesday, Chris joined HRO’s syringe program advocacy director Billy McCall to speak before the Licking County Board of Health during public comment. Harm Reduction Ohio had been preparing plans to start a syringe program in the county of 175,000, located east of Columbus, when the Board on its own initiative outlawed all syringe programs.

Harm Reduction Ohio continues to try to persuade the Licking Board of Health to follow science. Chris’ prepared remarks from Tuesday night are well-worth reading:

My name is Christopher Hawkins. I’m a retired Ph.D. organic chemist and scientific advisor to Harm Reduction Ohio.

Many smart people initially recoil at the idea of giving drug users a clean syringe in exchange for a used one. Without facts to inform them, some people believe it would increase crime or illegal drug use. Others believe syringe programs give tacit approval of drug use. And others believe that drug use is immoral and wish to punish drug users.

This one-page fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control states these programs:

· Don’t increase crime
· Reduce drug use
· Reduce overdose deaths
· Reduce Hepatitis and HIV infection
· Reduce Needlestick injuries
· Reduce health care costs

If you look at the evidence with open hearts and minds you will reconsider your previous vote on Syringe Exchange Programs and vote next month to permit one in Licking County. The urgency of the issue is highlighted by the 2 overdose deaths in Licking County in the last 10 days. The longer we wait, the more people will die from overdoses, the more people will suffer with infectious diseases, the more money will be wasted.

20 Ohio Counties and CDC support Syringe Programs. What are you seeing that these people don’t? In his letter published March 21 in the Granville Sentinel, Joe Ebel stated the Health Board has been “thoughtfully considering the benefits and risks as well as the moral and ethical implications of establishing a Syringe Exchange Program.” As you have declined to state why you oppose a life saving, health improving, and money saving program, one can only speculate as to your reasons. I’ve only managed to think of two

1) You are being told how to vote by someone who has power over you and you don’t have the courage to stand up for what is right.
2) You wish to punish people for using illegal drugs.

Both of these are terrible reasons. Listen to the CDC and do what is right. Vote to permit a Syringe Services Program in Licking County.

I would love the opportunity to speak to any board member individually in an effort to understand your rationale.

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