29 Opioid addiction is ravaging towns and cities throughout the United States, and nowhere is this epidemic felt more sharply than in Cape Cod’s Barnstable County, labeled one of America’s “hot spots” for opioid-related deaths and overdoses. As most people know, the grip of opioids is so powerful that addicts will go to great extremes to avoid getting help and to keep feeding the habit. One of the few places an injection drug user in Barnstable County will turn to is the clean needle program at the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod (ASGCC). The clean needle program reduces the transmis- sion of blood-borne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C that comes from sharing dirty needles, and each contact is an opportunity for a counselor to connect with an addict. “In addition to the obvious benefit of reducing the spread of blood-borne diseases, the needle exchange program serves as a lifeline and a bridge to treatment. It can keep people alive and disease-free until they are ready to get clean,” said Mintz Levin attorney Kate Stewart, who in addition to being an attorney holds a masters degree in Public Health. Prior to joining the firm, Kate did consid- erable work in the area of pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV/AIDS. If not for the ruling of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in June 2017, this critical lifeline to the addicted community would have been in danger of being cut. Ostensibly in an effort to clean up the used syringes and hypodermic needles strewn about the parks and play- grounds, the town of Barnstable told ASGCC that it had to stop its clean needle exchange program. ASGCC then sought a court order to allow the program to continue as well as have the court find that such a program was legal. The case was taken up by the Supreme Judicial Court to resolve this legal question of first impression. In support of the program, Kate, along with Mintz Levin attorneys Drew DeVoogd and Tiffany Knapp, worked with AIDS Action Committee, GLAD, and 32 respected health care and social service institutions throughout the state to prepare a comprehensive amicus brief on behalf of the 32 amici. Citing dozens of articles and studies from news and health authorities around the world, including recent findings by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the brief brought to light some critical but not so obvious insights. First, in 2015 the ASGCC collected 2,605 more syringes than it distributed at the Hyannis location. Contrary to the centerpiece of the town’s argument, ASGCC’s program is reducing—not adding to—the pile of improperly discarded needles. Hospitals, pharmacies, police stations, and fire departments offer receptacles for used needles, but not surprisingly, people who inject The Needle and the Damage Done (continued) “The Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in this case will mean the difference between life and death for people struggling with addiction across the Commonwealth. The public health amicus brief authored by Mintz Levin was critical to providing the Court with an understanding that needle access programs are the most fundamental tool in our arsenal for fighting the HIV, Hepatitis C, and opioid epidemics.” Ben Klein Project Director GLAD AIDS Law