CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department has voted to close its harm reduction program.
The clinic will also have to look for a new location; city council approved allowing the facility to remain in downtown Clarksburg until the end of the year.
Clarksburg city council members voted to order the clinic out of the downtown area and require program participants to submit to a blood test when needles are exchanged.
The Harrison County Board of Health voted to completely close the operation on Tuesday in a 4-1 vote.
The program is operated on Thursdays and was last in operation on Sept. 5.
Clarksburg Mayor Ryan Kennedy said it was time for some reforms because of the negative impact of the program on downtown businesses.
“They were seeing people shooting up (and) people leaving needles all over the place a lot of shoplifting,” he said. “All was going on the same time each week the needles were being handed out.”
Kennedy said city council voted to ask the health department to move the program from downtown and require participants to take a blood test when they exchange needles.
Kennedy expressed disappointment health department officials didn’t attempt to operate the program under the new guidelines.
“The health department said they were already complying with most of the things they were asking them to do and that 93% of people that were participating in the program were already voluntarily doing the blood test,” he said. “My question that I can’t get an answer on, is why would you pull the program and deny service to 93% of the people just because you don’t want to make 7% of the people take a blood test?”
Chad Bundy, the executive director of the Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department, said West Virginia law dictates HIV testing must be voluntary, suggesting the program could not follow the city ordinance and remain within state law.