Following are remarks given by District 6 Councilman Trevor O’Neil at last week’s press conference with state Senator John Moorlach introducing the senator’s SB 689:
Since California allowed easier needle access in 2015, Anaheim has had to deal with tens of thousands of needles strewn about our streets, parks, and public places. Last year when we cleared the homeless encampments in Anaheim’s stretch of the Santa Ana Riverbed, we recovered over 4000 used needles. After opening our first emergency homeless shelter in December and clearing out encampments near La Palma Park alone, we recovered 115 needles from that site. And last October, an 8 year old boy was pricked by a used needle while playing in Manzanita Park.
We acknowledge the public health objective and good intentions of needle exchanges, but we fear we are trading the health risks of sharing needles for a greater health issue: exposing the unsuspecting public to carelessly discarded needles. No one should have to worry about encountering a needle at a park, on the sidewalk, outside a school, or anywhere else. And furthermore, sadly, easier access to needles has compounded the issue of homelessness in our city. In Anaheim, we already provide many resources for residents struggling with addiction – Drug Free Anaheim, our partnership with City Net and others – and in fact some of these organizations believe that needle exchange programs can actually harm addicts because they offer needles without engaging in any rehabilitative services, essentially feeding the drug problem instead of treating it.
As a city, public safety is our number one responsibility, and Anaheim has made clear our very real concerns about the proliferation of needles in our city. Our City Council is on record opposing the state’s needle exchange program, and we support the intent of Senator Moorlach’s legislation to ensure local control and ensure that we have the ability to address these issues within our own city. A top-down, one-size-fits all approach to an issue as serious as needles is bad for Anaheim and cities across California, and that’s why at my earliest opportunity I intend to bring forth a resolution for the Anaheim City Council to sign on in support of Senator Moorlach’s SB 689, and I encourage my Council colleagues throughout Orange County and California to do the same. Thank you Senator Moorlach for addressing this issue and carrying this very important piece of legislation.
Editor’s note: at the March 5 Anaheim City Council meeting, O’Neil agendized council consideration of a resolution of support for SB 689.