California Department of Public Health approves syringe exchange in Santa Ana over City’s objections

Posted on August 14, 2023

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The syringe delivery and pickup service threatens public health and safety.

SANTA ANA, Calif. – The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has approved an application to provide syringe delivery and pickup services for drug use in Santa Ana, despite the City of Santa Ana’s strenuous opposition and concerns about public health and safety.

The CDPH’s Office of AIDS informed the City it had approved the application by the Harm Reduction Institute (HRI) effective Aug. 11, 2023, through Aug. 11, 2025. HRI will be authorized to provide delivery of syringes and pickup of used syringes to private homes, tents, RVs and other non-traditional forms of housing. CDPH stated HRI won’t be allowed to deliver supplies to unhoused individuals near playgrounds or schools.

“This needle exchange threatens the health and safety of our children, families and neighborhoods,” Mayor Valerie Amezcua said. “I am greatly disappointed that the state health department would override our local government authority to protect our community. Opioid addiction is a serious issue devastating communities throughout the United States, but once again, Santa Ana is the only Orange County city being asked to shoulder this countywide responsibility.”

In May, City Manager Kristine Ridge and Police Chief David Valentin sent a letter of opposition to CDPH, citing numerous concerns about the potential impact of a needle exchange service on the community. They noted that past needle exchange programs in Santa Ana have had dire effects, leading to hypodermic needles and syringes being discarded at public buildings, libraries, streets, sidewalks, residents’ lawns, parks, waterways and elsewhere. A court found that one needle exchange provider could not account for 250,000 syringes that it handed out but never collected. In 2020, the Santa Ana City Council approved a citywide ban on needle exchanges, which the State of California has now preempted.

To address concerns raised by the City and Orange County Health Officer Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the state public health department said it will fund HRI to conduct syringe litter clean-ups to decrease the incidents of syringe litter in public spaces and increase community engagement and education on proper syringe disposal.

The City will be closely monitoring the operation of this program and will share more information with the community as it becomes available, including how to report discarded syringes.

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