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Customer says he was denied syringes at City Market because of Durango’s drug problem – The Durango Herald

Customer says he was denied syringes at City Market because of Durango’s drug problem – The Durango Herald

Kroger official says allegations do not have validity

Durango Police Department Opiate Detective Derrick Gallegos says the number of drug overdoses have decreased in 2024. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald file)

A Durango man is alleging that he was not allowed to purchase syringes at City Market South because of the city’s drug problem.

Terry Harris, 53, has type 2 diabetes and has been buying syringes in Durango for seven years. Normally, Harris will purchase syringes at Walgreens or Walmart, but this time both stores were out.

He tried City Market. When he approached the pharmacy counter, he was told that he could not purchase syringes because of a state law that says a person must have a prescription to buy them.

Colorado Revised Statute 12-280-123 allows pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to sell nonprescription syringes and needles to anyone. However, it does not specify whether it violates the law not to sell to a customer.

Harris says he showed the revised statute to the pharmacist and alleges he was told that he couldn’t be sold the syringes because Durango had a drug problem and the pharmacist did not feel comfortable selling him the needles.

Kroger has denied Harris’ allegations and said pharmacists have the right to use their discretion when selling needles. Pharmacy staff also may require a prescription for a specific type of needle, which is what Harris was asking for, said Kroger Spokeswoman Jessica Trowbridge.

Trowbridge would not specify what type of needle Harris inquired about because she did not want to release private medical information.

“At City Market safety is one of our core values and our pharmacists have a duty to practice responsible medicine and are empowered to exercise professional judgment, including asking patients questions and/or contacting a provider to confirm diagnosis. In this instance, the pharmacist’s offer to contact the provider was declined,” Trowbridge said.

Trowbridge said the company conducted thorough interviews with the pharmacy team and found no evidence that the claims of “Durango having a drug problem” were ever said.

Harris felt he was profiled based on his long hair and goatee, but said his attire was entirely professional. He also reiterated that he’s purchased the same needles at Walmart and Walgreens.

Harris shared receipts with The Durango Herald showing purchases for “diabetes needles” at Walmart and a “needle syringe combo” on June 25 and 26.

Here are receipts showing the purchase of needles at Walmart and Walgreens. (Courtesy of Terry Harris)

“Granted, I’ve got long hair and a goatee. But so do many people here in Durango, and I’m a professional. I’ve been an I.T. professional for 30 years now,” he said.

Harris said he doesn’t drink or use recreational drugs.

His concern is that if pharmacies prevent the sale of syringes, it could be dangerous for people who have diabetes or other diseases which require medicine to be taken intravenously.

He said his blood sugar reached 319 millimoles per deciliter without taking his insulin, which is dangerously high for a diabetic. The ideal range is between 72 and 108 mg/dL.

Furthermore, Harris’ situation presents the question about access to clean needles in Durango.

Harris said that even if he was going to use needles for drug use, it’d be better to sell people clean needles rather than letting them use dirty ones.

“Our community does have a drug use problem and that’s (clean needles) going to prevent Hep C, AIDS, whatever. I don’t agree with intravenous drug use, but that keeps people safe,” he said.

Durango police Cmdr. Jacob Dunlop said the city’s current drug issue isn’t too dissimilar from other cities.

Derrick Gallegos, an opiate detective with Durango police, said the number of overdoses has increased in recent years because of stronger opiates and laced drugs, but the prevalence of recreational drug use has not been trending upward.

“I think with the use of social media and cameras, people record it a little bit more. But as we talk to different people, it’s kind of the same pattern. I just think there’s a little bit more visibility,” Gallegos said.

However, Gallegos said the number of overdose incidents has been down so far in 2024. In 2023, DPD reported 40 overdoses in the city. Just over halfway through the year in 2024, DPD has only reported 12 overdoses.

Gallegos also said that as education increases about drug use and harm reduction, it has a positive impact on helping people be safe.

La Plata County Public Health does offer harm reduction services like clean needle exchanges.

“After you use a syringe for the first time, it will start to get really dull really fast, which can cause a lot of damage to the skin,” said La Plata County Public Health Harm Reduction Coordinator Sierra Roe. “If people are sharing syringes or reusing, that heightens the risk of HIV, hepatitis C and hospital visits, which cost money. And it can have lifelong effects.”

La Plata County Public Health’s harm reduction program hosts outreach days where the organization hands out supplies like clean needles and offers referrals to recovery services.

“Our harm reduction program just allows people to have access to supplies and have a nonjudgmental person to talk to,” Roe said.

Roe and her team typically see 20 to 25 people seeking harm reduction services per week. Not all of them are there seeking to pick up clean needles, but a good portion of them touch base with the harm reduction team for that reason.

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