After graduating from North Central in 1967, Lynn took some college classes and worked in a law office, but after a friend died of AIDS, she took a job doing HIV education and outreach work for the Spokane Regional Health District. As the district’s first outreach worker, her mission was preventing others from contracting the disease.
For two decades, Lynn worked at ground level, winning over people on the streets by treating them with dignity and respect. “She did more for people on the streets of Spokane than anyone,” noted retired police Officer Michael Yates.
In 1990, the health district prepared to launch a needle exchange program with Lynn and its coordinator. The county prosecutor, believing the program encouraged drug use, threatened to prosecute health district workers like Lynn who gave out needles. After the state Supreme Court ruled it was legal, the needle exchange opened downtown on May 17, 1991. Studies have since shown the program helps prevent disease among drug users without increasing illicit drug use.
Lynn coordinates the needle exchange program from the health district’s headquarters off of Monroe Street. She enforces a strict 1-to-1 rule on exchanges. People are required to show up at 4:30 p.m., allowing enough time to get their needles before the exchange closes at 5 p.m. She gives every client alcohol pads, tourniquets and syringes, as well as a cookie.
“She has as good relations with people on the street as anyone I’ve ever been associated with,” said Torney Smith, administrator of the Spokane Regional Health District.