Last updated: February 20, 2019
In late November 2018, a San Diego County Superior Court judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking a state-approved mobile needle-exchange service from operating as proposed in Costa Mesa and three other Orange County cities, including Santa Ana. Read the L.A. Times article for more information.
On August 6, 2018 the City of Santa Ana was informed via a letter (view letter here) that the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Office of AIDS (OA) has approved the Orange County Needle Exchange Program (OCNEP) to provide needle exchange operations in the County effective August 6, 2018. The authorization was granted over strong objections from the City of Santa Ana. While Santa Ana supports the concept of needle exchange to mitigate the spread of communicable diseases and as a public health tool, the actual implementation experience related to the OCNEP program has been more focused on distribution and less on exchange, resulting in significant syringe litter in areas of distribution. The State-authorized program will now limit distribution to specific locations in the cities of Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Orange and Santa Ana for two days a week in each location.
The City remains deeply concerned about the program, its proximity to Santa Ana schools, and the failure to put in place stronger exchange provisions that would reduce the danger of abandoned syringes. The new authorization does require an independent evaluator to assess syringe litter and report findings to CDPH, OA which could result in additional efforts to address syringe litter.
The City of Santa Ana will be reviewing this authorization and considering its options. The City will continue to monitor the situation, along with the impact and consequences of the authorization with a particular interest in the methodology to be used by the independent evaluator to measure syringe litter impacts to the Santa Ana community.
Residents of Santa Ana who remain concerned about this decision are urged to contact Karen Smith with the California Department of Public Health:
On June 25, 2018, the City of Santa Ana officially provided a letter to the California Department of Public Health declaring the City of Santa Ana’s strong opposition to the proposed Orange County Needle Exchange Program (“OCNEP”) application for certification of mobile syringe needle exchange services, in the City of Santa Ana. A similar letter, dated June 8, 2018 from the City of Santa Ana’s Chief of Police, was submitted to the California Department of Public Health opposing the operation of the OCNEP Mobile Needle Exchange. The letter referenced the standards for refusal to certify an initial SEP Application, indicating “here, the harm to public safety significantly outweighs the benefits to public health conferred by the OCNEP.”
It is believed, and has been proven through prior City experiences, that this constituency will expose the improper disposal of dirty and used needles, which will endanger the health and safety of the community. OCNEP’s earlier and documented operations in the Santa Ana Civic Center had significant adverse impacts, including but not limited to excessive needle litter at the Civic Center and associated public safety concerns, which ultimately resulted in the City’s termination of its Memorandum of Understanding with OCNEP to operate a syringe access program at the Civic Center. In his termination letter dated December 6, 2017, Santa Ana City Manager Raul Godinez II provided to Mr. Nathan Birbaum of the OCNEP Steering Committee, a plethora of written and verbal complaints regarding the mismanagement of the OCNEP program and its deficiency in operation, illustrating serious health and safety concerns to the Santa Ana community.
Chief among the safety concerns were numerous complaints by citizens conducting business in the Civic Center, families visiting the Santa Ana Library, and employees of the City of Santa Ana, the County of Orange, the federal government and the State of California. The OCNEP Mobile Needle Exchange proposal will not only adversely impact the quality of life for Santa Ana residents, visitors, and businesses, but will also re-create a public health and safety crisis for the Santa Ana community at large which had been mitigated with the cancellation of the prior OCNEP MOU and permit denial.