OC needle exchange program approved to operate despite opposition

ANAHEIM, Calif. (KABC) -- The California Department of Public Health has approved the mobile Orange County Needle Exchange program to operate in Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Orange and Santa Ana.

The program plans to distribute new needles in an effort to stop the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among drug users.

It is scheduled to run during designated time blocks of three to four hours for two days a week, starting in Anaheim next Monday.

However, Orange County Board of Supervisors Chair Andrew Do voiced displeasure with the state's decision to allow the program amid opposition from the cities involved.

"The potential harm to the public is extremely grave," Do said.

Do is planning to ask the Board of Supervisors for approval to file a lawsuit stopping the program from starting next Monday.

The nonprofit maintained in a statement that its "harm reduction approach is a key, research-driven way to save lives and quell the spread of infectious disease."

"We know that there are some folks that this program will surely help, but we all know in life there are some bad apples out there that maybe, given a needle, may still share it and maybe just discard it," Anaheim spokesperson Mike Lyster said.

The needle exchange program originally began in 2016 at the Santa Ana Civic Center, but closed last January after the city denied it a permit, citing a public health risk.

"Used needles were being discarded all over the city," Do recalled.

The Orange County Needle Exchange program said it plans to respond to neighbors' concerns about needle litter "by providing more consistent sharps disposal, community needle sweeps, and a hotline to report improperly discharged syringes."
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