City Of Santa Ana Opposes To HRI Needle Distribution Plan

On April 16th the Santa Ana City Council unanimously approved a resolution that stablished their “strenuous” opposition to the needle distribution plan proposed by Harm Reduction Institute (HRI). Carol Newark, executive director of the HRI still insists that they are an HIV prevention agency and currently Santa Ana is in the midst of a crisis regarding that subject and needs to face that problem “whether the city council and the rest of city government is willing to acknowledge that” said in an interview with VoiceofOC.

This needle distribution program was filed by the HRI in December 2023 to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). According to the City os Santa Ana the operating plan by the HRI allegedly proposed the distribution of approximately 300,000 needles annually. However, it would just collect around 60% (180,000 needles aprox.), which would mean the other 40% (120,000 needles aprox.) would be unaccounted for. Situation that gravely concerns the City Council, because of previous experiencies. In 2016-2018 Santa Ana faced the impacts of a different needle distribution program that lead to thousands of used, discarded and uncollected needles in the community in areas like: Civic Center, neighborhoods, local library and Senior Center. However, Newark also said that the city was partially responsible for not implementing the program correctly and having poor practice during the past program.

In addition, in a press release the HRI says that The City’s opposition is based on unsupported claims, including an alleged increase in syringe littering. HRI contests these claims, highlighting their efforts to ensure proper syringe handling and collection. They acknowledge challenges in collecting all distributed syringes but are committed to maximizing collection efforts. Despite efforts to engage with the City, including operating from a medical office as requested by officials, HRI faced opposition and eventual shutdown. The City’s refusal to engage in discussions and its misrepresentation of the consultation process with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) are noted. HRI emphasizes its positive track record in the community, including providing naloxone training and successfully running a syringe services program. However, they perceive the City’s stance as catering to a vocal minority opposed to their life-saving operation.

According to The City of Santa Ana’s official statement they want to ensure this does not happen again. Also, 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. “The City Council’s resolution directs the City Manager to work with key stakeholders to oppose HRI’s application and provide data and information that demonstrate the negative, detrimental and significant financial impact the proposed needle distribution program would have on the City, its resources, and the public’s health, safety and welfare.”

“This resolution reaffirms the City Council’s commitment to protecting the health, safety and welfare of our residents. […] We remain steadfast in our opposition to the establishment of a needle program and all of the negative impacts it would have on the Santa Ana community.” Mayor Valerie Amezcua

Santa Ana City Councilmember Phil Bacerra has also expressed his opinion on the subject.

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