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El Paso County health board member regrets role in rejecting needle exchange

December 20, 2017 Updated: December 21, 2017 at 6:13 am
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photo - An El Paso County Board of Health member expressed "disappointment" at how a needle exchange proposal was handled earlier this month. (AP file photo/Rick Callahan)
An El Paso County Board of Health member expressed "disappointment" at how a needle exchange proposal was handled earlier this month. (AP file photo/Rick Callahan) 

An El Paso County Board of Health member expressed "disappointment" at how a needle exchange proposal was handled earlier this month.

Doris Ralston said Wednesday she felt unprepared during the board's Dec. 4 meeting to make a decision on whether to block a syringe exchange from being established at a west-side Colorado Springs' church.

The Southern Colorado Health Network had proposed an exchange to combat the spread of infectious diseases, such as hepatitis C and HIV, and to help steer people into substance abuse treatment.

No formal vote was held, but five of the board's nine members - including Raltson - directed El Paso County Public Health's staff not to spend more time helping create that program.

On Wednesday, Ralston said she was upset at only having received a copy of the proposal the morning of the meeting.

"I don't think it's in our best interest... to not have that information in writing somewhere," Ralston said, adding she "wasn't really prepared for that meeting."

"I'm not really proud of my part in that meeting," added Ralston, the Colorado Springs Osteopathic Foundation's executive director and CEO.

Her remarks came while requesting an amendment to the board's Dec. 4 meeting minutes, clarifying that the board's guidance only pertained to that specific program.

If another entity wants to propose a syringe exchange in El Paso County, she said, they can.

Even so, it remains unclear how a different proposal would fare before the board.

Manitou Springs City Councilwoman Coreen Toll, an exchange proponent, will leave the board when her term expires Jan. 1. Applicants are being sought for the position, which will be filled by the Board of El Paso County Commissioners - all of whom oppose such exchanges.

IN OTHER NEWS:

- The El Paso County Board of Health unanimously approved a $16 million budget for 2018 - about half of which is funded by grants, and about one-fifth of which is funded by El Paso County. The rest comes from licenses, fees and other government sources.

- The deadline to apply to serve on the El Paso County Board of Health has been extended to Jan. 5. Applicants must be serving as an elected official from any municipality in El Paso County, other than from Colorado Springs.

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