GLOUCESTER (AP) — Massachusetts public health officials have approved the North Shore’s first needle exchange program.

The Department of Public Health has given the Gloucester-based service agency North Shore Health Project the go-ahead.

Director Susan Coviello tells The Gloucester Daily Times she hopes to have the program in place by October. The program will include counseling, disease screening, Narcan distribution and education in addition to the needle exchange.

Under such programs, drug abusers and others can get clean, new needles, reducing the risk of disease and infection that comes with re-using needles. Advocates say it will also cut back on the dangerous disposal of needles in public places.

Opponents say needle exchanges enable addicts.

There are just six licensed needle exchange facilities in the state.

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