Needle exchange finds a home in Greenfield

  • Recorder Staff/Tom RelihanUsed syringes collected by Tapestry Health's Holyoke needle exchange. Tom Relihan

  • The Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew on the corner of Federal and Church streets in Greenfield will host a needle exchange program operated by Tapestry, formerly Tapestry Health. Recorder File Photo/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 11/10/2017 2:02:57 PM

GREENFIELD — After a lengthy struggle to find a location for its needle exchange program, Tapestry, formerly Tapestry Health, will operate a program out of the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew.

Located on the corner of Federal and Church Streets, the church is immediately allowing Tapestry to offer full service for its syringe access program on a part-time basis.

“After almost a year of struggling to secure a location for syringe access in Greenfield, we are thrilled to finally be able to provide these life-saving services in the town,” Liz Whynott, Tapestry’s director of HIV Health and Prevention, said in a press release.

According to Whynott, walk-in services offered include syringe access and disposal, HIV and Hepatitis C testing, medical and drug treatment referrals, counseling on safe injection and risk-reduction, and training on how to recognize and prevent an opioid overdose, as well as access to free Narcan overdose prevention kits. Tapestry will operate out of the church’s choir room on the lower level, which is accessible by a Church Street entrance, on Mondays from 1 to 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Greenfield’s Board of Health first approved a syringe access program in August 2016, and Tapestry received authorization from the state in February. But when it came to implementing the program, Whynott said, Tapestry faced “one unexpected barrier after another” involving finding a location.

Whynott explained Tapestry, which has locations in North Adams, Northampton and Holyoke, hoped to operate out of an RV in Greenfield, but ran into hurdles trying to find a place to park. The organization was unable to park on public property, but also couldn’t arrange to park in a private lot that was large enough to fit its needs, Whynott said.

The church, she said, was one of the community partners Tapestry reached out to, this time reaching an agreeable arrangement.

“We are grateful to the Episcopal Church of Saint James and Andrew for opening their doors to Tapestry,” Whynott said, also thanking the regional Opioid Task Force for its advocacy. “Their commitment to providing a space for these life-saving services will help to reduce stigma as a barrier to care,” she said.

“James and Andrew is excited to be sharing our space with Tapestry in order to offer the community a much-needed service of syringe access and disposal,” Molly Sherm, of the Episcopal Church of Saint James and Andrew, said in the release. “We see (its) service as a ministry that encourages our parish community to live into our call to serve our neighbors and to respect the dignity of every human being.”

The new development received widespread support from those working to find solutions to the opioid epidemic.

“This news caps a year-long struggle to offer a safe place where individuals can exchange needles in Greenfield,” Debra McLaughlin, Opioid Task Force coordinator, is quoted as saying. “We appreciate the joint efforts of Tapestry and the Episcopal Churches of Saints James and Andrew, and look forward to working with them to ensure its success.”

“It takes a community to help fight the impact of opioid addiction,” Sheriff Christopher Donelan, a co-chair of the Opioid Task Force, said in the release. “We commend the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew for stepping up when others could not address this need.”

Members of the Opioid Task Force echoed their excitement regarding what having a needle exchange program will mean for Greenfield.

“We congratulate Tapestry in their persistent efforts to site a needle exchange in Greenfield,” John Merrigan, Franklin County register of probate and co-chair of the Opioid Task Force, said in the release. “Clean needles save lives, which is central to the core mission of the task force.”

“This exciting development will only enhance Tapestry’s existing harm reduction efforts,” Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, fellow co-chair of the Opioid Task Force, is quoted as saying in the release. “Syringe access programs are proven to help individuals enter recovery.”

Still, Whynott said Tapestry’s work isn’t done. She wants to continue to pursue finding a place for the RV, as well as find a way for the organization to operate on a full-time basis in Greenfield, which may mean finding a second location to operate from part-time with a goal of being as accessible as possible.

Reach Shelby Ashline at:
413-772-0261 ext. 257


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