PALMER — The Palmer City Council moved forward with a proposal to provide healthy needle exchange in the city of Palmer. Former interim council member Imran Chaudhry spoke in favor of the initiative and Director of HIV prevention and education with the Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association Venus Woods presented to the council.
“I think it would be wrong to assume that the only people doing this are drug users,” Chaudhry said.
Chaudhry presented statistics and research on needle exchange and disposal, saying that 13.5 million people contributed to the improper disposal of 7.8 billion needles a year. Chaudhry advocated for constructing dirty needle exchange boxes that have already been in place for five years successfully in Multnomah in Oregon and provided a contact. Chaudhry also provided information on possible grant funding available through the Center for Disease Control for the project. Chaudhry ended his time speaking during public comment by stating that no documented cases of HIV infection due to accidental contact with a dirty needle have been documented in the United States and that he does not that to happen in Palmer.
Woods and Angela Dunn of the AAAA presented their information on work done to provide medical assistance to AIDS patients, education, testing, and needle exchange assistance throughout the state. Since July of 2018, the AAAA has provided a mobile health unit in south central Alaska, currently operating two days a week at the Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage and in Wasilla on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. However, there is no longer a permanent location for the mobile health unit to park, and Woods must meet the needs of patients on a case by case basis. Woods hoped that she could establish a place for the AAAA mobile health unit to park for needle exchange and testing to Palmer residents.
“We really need a stationary site,” Woods said. “We ask you to consider supporting the resolution to allow the 4A’s mobile health unit to park somewhere in Palmer.”
In 2019, the AAAA have provided 757 HIV tests and 645 Hepatitis C tests statewide. In the Mat-Su alone, they have collected 115,498 dirty needles and distributed 109,267 clean needles. Statewide they have collected 990,791 dirty needles and provided 984,467 clean needles. Councilwoman Sabrena Combs made a motion at the end of the meeting asking for support forming a resolution to support AAAA and their mission.
The council met at 6 p.m. prior to their regularly scheduled meeting to discuss the upcoming budget, and again entered into the committee on the whole following the conclusion of new business for presentations by City Manager Nathan Wallace and Clerk Norma Alley. With the conclusion of the presentation, the amendment process will begin at the next special budget meeting at 6 p.m. on Dec. 3.
The council passed one item of new business during the regular meeting on Tuesday, providing a statement of non-objection for a winery license at Matanuska Brewing Company. The council approved Ken More, Shannon Jardine and Christopher Shayne Reese to three year terms on the Airport Advisory Commission. Pete Christopher and Janet Kincaid were appointed to the Board of Economic Development for one year. Richard Benedetto and Kristy Thom Bernier were appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission for three years. Marilyn Bennett and Shannon Connelly were appointed to the Parks and Recreation board for three year terms and Ryan Richard was appointed to the Parks and Recreation board for two years.