Santa Ana leaders oppose new needle-exchange program approved by state health officials

David González Image
Wednesday, August 16, 2023
Santa Ana leaders oppose new needle-exchange program
Santa Ana leaders are opposing a new needle-exchange program approved by state health officials.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Santa Ana Mayor Valerie Amezcua has serious concerns about the California Department of Public Health's decision to approve an application to provide syringe delivery and pickup services for alleged drug use in the city.

"We don't want this here," Amezcua said. "It is not good for our quality of life."

Harm Reduction Institute applied to open the syringe services program to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C in the community.

Amezcua said, "My biggest fear is that one of our children picks up a needle, a used needle, which carries diseases and a lot of other things."

In a statement, HRI's executive director Carol Newark said, "Harm reduction programs like ours make the community safer by limiting the spread of bloodborne illnesses by offering sterile syringes and the proper disposal of used syringes."

Newark said they chose Santa Ana as their operating location because the city has the highest rate of HIV transmission in Orange County.

Amezcua said that's not a good enough reason for her constituents.

Newark said they have a plan to ensure needles aren't discarded in public places.

She said HRI will provide disposal services Monday-Friday for anyone in Santa Ana.

However, Newark said they will only provide access to sterile syringes two days a week.

In addition, HRI will operate a syringe-litter reporting system where Santa Ana residents can report improperly discarded needles and they will go collect them.

Newark said they'll deliver syringes and pick up used needles at private homes, RVs and other non-traditional forms of housing like tents.

Amezcua said, "Good luck because when you get to that tent either they're going to be gone, the needle is going to be gone or some child or some parent is going to step on that needle. And then what?"

She wants Santa Ana residents to voice their concerns about the needle-exchange program.

"Stand up, speak up loudly and say no, not here. Take it somewhere else," Amezcua said.

HRI does not have an official launch date for the syringe exchange program.

Santa Ana leaders will look at all avenues to stop this program from getting off the ground.