BOSTON- While the city of Boston has long pursued a needle exchange initiative, new “harm reduction” strategies now include the free distribution of pipes that can be used to smoke crack or methamphetamine.
Health officials say the goal is to steer IV drug users away from needles, but some local business owners are frustrated by another giveaway they believe is drawing more drug users to an already overrun area.
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“Why are we giving them pipes? Are you kidding? It’s like giving them needles,” laments Gerry DiPierro, whose construction company sits just off Boston’s derisively dubbed “methadone mile,” a sprawling encampment for homeless people where addicts openly use drugs. .
“I can give you a hundred needles that I collect all the time, what is he doing? He just makes it the central zone to come and get everything.”
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Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, a Democrat, defends the state-funded pamphlets.
“Every step we take has to be immediately life-saving as well,” Wu argues. “We’ve seen a big drop off and the data has shown success with the parts of this program, the goals of this program, which are to make sure preventable communicable diseases are stopped.”
Not all city politicians agree. Democratic city councilman Michael Flaherty says he is incredulous that handing out crack pipes is the answer to what he calls a humanitarian crisis.
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“People who are struggling need treatment and recovery, and they need mental health services. We shouldn’t allow those poor souls down there,” Flaherty said.
Vandals and homeless men often attack DiPierro’s trucks and building, breaking windows and costing him thousands of dollars. He says that he is frustrated with a broken system and strategies that continue to fail.
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“Why would they go to the other side of town for help when they can get everything they need here? It doesn’t make sense.”
Earlier this year, the White House denied that federal funds directly or indirectly pay for crack pipes in safe smoking kits.