Memorial Day closure: City Hall and non-essential City facilities are closed, street sweeping is canceled on Monday, May 27, 2024. Learn more.

Needle distributions in Santa Ana

Take action!

If the Harm Reduction Institute's needle distribution program application moves forward, the California Department of Public Health will open a public comment period. We will update the community if that happens. Until then, please visit our website for news and updates. You can express your concerns to your state representatives or petition your opposition alongside your neighbors. Use the sample templates below and address them to our state leaders. You may also email us to share your opinion about the proposed needle distribution program.

State Leaders

Address your letters to state leaders below.

Governor Gavin Newsom
1021 O Street, Suite 9000
Sacramento, CA 95814

Senator Tom Umberg
1021 O Street, Suite 6530
Sacramento, CA 95814

Assemblymember Avelino Valencia
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0068

Assemblymember Tri Ta
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0070

Dr. Tomás Aragón
Director and State Public Health Officer
California Department of Public Health
PO Box 997377, MS 0500
Sacramento, CA 95899-7377

Stay Informed

The Harm Reduction Institute (HRI) filed an application in 2023 with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to provide needle distribution services in Santa Ana. HRI seeks to provide delivery of syringes and pickup of used syringes to private homes, tents, RVs and other non-traditional forms of housing.

CDPH approved HRI's application in August 2023. However, thanks to the City's strenuous opposition to the program, citing public health and safety concerns,  the CDPH rescinded its authorization of the program. HRI has again applied to operate the needle program, but it has not yet been approved.

In order for HRI’s application to move forward, CDPH must first engage in the mandatory consultation process with the local health officer and local law enforcement leadership. This issue is a top priority for City staff, who are working diligently to demonstrate the negative impacts such needle distributions have had on the Santa Ana community in the past and will again, if approved.

This webpage allows members of the public to learn about the status of needle distribution applications and about how such operations can seriously affect the health, safety and well-being of our youth, neighborhoods and businesses.


Watch this video update from March 5, 2024, and use the buttons below to read news articles regarding needle distributions in Santa Ana.

Needle distribution fact sheet

Download Needle distribution fact sheet

Needle distribution impacts

From 2016 to 2018, a needle distribution program in Santa Ana resulted in thousands of used needles and syringes being discarded in public areas frequented by children and senior citizens. These thousands of dirty needles affected public areas like the Civic Center, neighborhoods, businesses, our library, and our senior center. This needle program ended thanks to the City's legal and code enforcement efforts.

Needles found at Library, Civic Center, Senior Center

The first needle distribution program had serious negative effects on our community, such as:

  • Santa Ana Library staff routinely located 40 to 50 used and discarded needles a month.
  • Dirty needles were found in the public library on the floor, in study areas, on bookshelves, in books, in bathrooms and in children’s areas.
  • Needles were found outside of the library, in parking lots, around government buildings and in strewn about downtown Santa Ana.
  • On one day in February 2018, maintenance staff picked up approximately 40 needles in the Civic Center.
  • In February 2018, Santa Ana Senior Center staff picked up approximately 50 needles at Birch Park in their normal clean-up before opening.
  • In response to the number of needles and homeless-related crimes, the City of Santa Ana hired a security company to patrol the Civic Center, including removal of used needles, at a cost of over $1 million a year.
  • 250,000 needles were distributed but never collected by the provider during the last needle distribution program.
  • In their application, the program plans to hand out at least 600 needles to 500 people annually. That’s 300,000 needles total. The program says they PLAN to collect 60% of those needles, leaving 120,000 needles unaccounted for.

needle on sidewalk      needle on bookshelt

In 2017-18:

  • Artists Village Apartments reported finding “needles on our property ... and our residents are scared.”
  • Town Square Condo in downtown reported “a huge wave of crime, heroin use in the stairwells, needles thrown around, car theft ...”
  • The owner of a downtown Food-4-Less reported that the biggest problem it was facing was “homeless and needles in the restrooms.”
  • The owner of Hill Marine Products on Halladay Street stated its biggest problem was the “homeless using hypodermic needles” on the lawn and parking lot.
  • Salon Marbella on Bristol Street reported that “clients are feeling insecure, losing business, people are scared, windows are broken, assaults, needles in restroom...”
  • The owner of AM/PM ARCO on E. 1st Street stated that it needed the City’s assistance in addressing needles in front of the business.
  • The Santa Ana Police Department has presented evidence of projected harm to public safety and increased risk to our community that outweighs any public health benefit.
  • Nearly 14,000 used needles were collected by OC Public Works on the Santa Ana River trail from January to March 2018.
  • This did not work in Santa Ana BEFORE. Why allow it again?

Needle Distributions Timeline

  • 2011 - California Health and Safety Code 121349 is signed into law, which allows the State Department of Public Health (CDPH) to authorize entities to provide hypodermic needle and syringe exchange programs in any location the CDPH determines that conditions exist for the rapid spread of disease
  • February 2016 - Orange County Needle Exchange Program (OCNEP) opens a needle distribution program at the Orange County Civic Center in Santa Ana. This resulted in thousands of used needles and syringes being discarded in public areas, including the Civic Center, neighborhoods, businesses, the library, and the Santa Ana Senior Center.
  • Early 2018 - OCNEP closes its needle distribution program in Santa Ana.
  • 2018 – Health and Safety Code 121349 is amended to expand the scope of materials that needle programs may distribute.
  • August 6, 2018 - The City of Santa Ana is informed that the CDPH Office of AIDS has approved OCNEP to provide a mobile needle distribution in Orange County. The authorization to operate in Santa Ana, Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Orange is granted over strong objections from the City of Santa Ana, the County and other cities.
  • November 2018 - A San Diego County Superior Court judge issues a preliminary injunction blocking OCNEP's mobile needle-exchange service from operating.
  • October 2019 - The court rules that OCNEP's proposed mobile syringe exchange program cannot operate in Orange County because the state should have reviewed the proposed syringe exchange’s potential environmental impact first. As part of that ruling, the Court found that OCNEP could not account for approximately 250,000 needles provided by OCNEP but never collected.
  • 2020 – Health and Safety Code 121349 is amended to allow possession of a syringe without a prescription.
  • October 6, 2020 - Santa Ana City Council approves ordinance prohibiting syringe exchange programs.
  • 2022 – Health and Safety Code 121349 is amended to no longer require California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review of environmental impacts from proposed needle distribution programs.
  • January 5, 2023 - Harm Reduction Institute (HRI) files an application with CDPH to operate a needle distribution program in Santa Ana.
  • May 19, 2023 - The City of Santa Ana sends a public comment letter to CDPH officially opposing HRI's proposed needle program.
  • August 11, 2023 - CDPH sends a letter to City of Santa Ana informing the City that it has authorized HRI's needle distribution program.
  • August 2023 - The City of Santa Ana and the County of Orange continue to voice opposition to and concerns about the needle distribution program, with letters from the City Manager, Police Chief, City Councilmembers and the Orange County Health Officer.
  • August 30, 2023 - CDPH rescinds its decision to authorize HRI's needle program in Santa Ana to allow further engagement with the City, in response to the City's continued opposition efforts.
  • December 20, 2023 - HRI files a new application with CDPH to operate a mobile needle distribution program in Santa Ana.
  • December 22, 2023 - CDPH emails the City of Santa Ana City Attorney's Office an "Invitation to Consult on Syringe Services Authorization."
  • January 9, 2024 - The City of Santa Ana responds to CDPH's invitation, seeking more "robust and meaningful consultation" than CDPH is offering.
Close window