Last month, the Anaheim City Council voted in closed session to join the County of Orange lawsuit to prevent the OC Needle Exchange Program (OCNEP) from operating a free syringe program for drug addicts in Anaheim, Orange, Santa Ana and Costa Mesa. The County filed suit after the state Department of Public Health approved OCNEP’s plan to operate a mobile program in those cities, providing free needles to drug addicts, as well as injection supplies, wound care, condoms, and lubricant.
OCNEP wants to distribute 1 million free needles a year, and acknowledges that at most, they can recover three-quarters of those needles – leaving 250,000 used syringes strewn about Anaheim, Orange, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana. OCNEP has pledged additional mitigation measures like organizing community syringe sweeps – further admission of the serious community health issues by these programs.
Here’s how Supervisor Andrew Do characterized program’s like this (speaking to the LA Times):
“Needle programs like this are a proven failure for the neighborhoods that have to live with their impact, which tend to be lower-income areas. Drug needles end up in public libraries, parks and on sidewalks and jeopardize the health and safety of our children.”
“What is most offensive about these needle exchange programs is they seek to subvert local interests and ignore city restrictions by Sacramento bureaucrats who don’t have to face the consequences of their decisions.”
Yesterday, Anaheim Blog e-mailed mayoral candidates Harry Sidhu, Ashleigh Aitken, Lorri Galloway and Cynthia Ward and the three District 6 council candidates to ask if they support or oppose allowing the OC Needle Exchange program to operate in Anaheim, and the council’s decision to join the County’s lawsuit. Here are the responses we’ve received thus far:
Harry Sidhu: “I oppose allowing a needle exchange program in Anaheim because it has been a proven failure in Santa Ana, who already kicked them out because the exchange actually increased needle waste and disease transmission. Our children shouldn’t have to worry about being pricked by needles when playing in the park, participating in a soccer game, or attending a football game. This failed and dangerous needle exchange program should not be dumped on Anaheim neighborhoods.”
“I support the Anaheim City Council’s decision to join the County of Orange lawsuit against the State’s approval of the needle exchange. The City Council’s most important responsibility is protecting the safety of Anaheim’s residents. The needle exchange is a proven failure that endangers Anaheim neighborhoods and must be stopped.”
Lorri Galloway: “Although I understand that needle exchange programs are meant to help reduce the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C and are often the only regular contact injection drug users have with health care professionals, I am opposed because the negative impacts to our neighborhoods and residents are greater.”
“The program replaces an average of 1 used needle with another 20 new needles – a maximum of 200 total for 10 used needles. Drug needles end up in public libraries, parks and on sidewalks and jeopardize the health and safety of our children and families. If a need remains, it would be better to connect the exchange program with other homeless facilities that are still in development, and not with mobile units that operate in local neighborhoods.”
Ashleigh Aitken: Has not yet responded.
Cynthia Ward: Has not yet responded.
District 6 Candidates
Trevor O’Neil: “I am outraged by the OCNEP proposal, and I oppose any effort to put a needle exchange program in Anaheim. Our city should not be subjected to overreaching state programs that only serve to attract drug users to Anaheim. If I’m elected to the Anaheim City Council, I’ll keep needle exchanges out of our Anaheim Hills neighborhoods and all Anaheim neighborhoods.”
“I applaud the Board of Supervisors for launching the lawsuit and the City Council for joining the lawsuit. This needle exchange program has already demonstrated that it is a detriment to the community, after Santa Ana forced this program out of their city. The rules of this program allow drug users to get 20 needles for turning in just one, and as might be expected, the program operators couldn’t account for 250,000 needles in the two years they have operated. Uncollected needles end up littering streets and parks, posing a health hazard for the community. I won’t allow that to happen in Anaheim.”
“While the OC Needle Exchange program may improve the health and welfare of those that use the needles, it puts the health and welfare of everyone else at risk. That is because the OC Needle Exchange is not really a needle exchange program at all, it’s a needle give-away program. This program would lead to an increase in the number of discarded used needles on our streets and in our parks. Discarded needles pose a health hazard to all Anaheim residents and the dedicated public employees who are responsible for keeping our neighborhoods clean.”
“There are better ways to ensure the health and welfare of ALL Anaheim residents, which should be the goal of anyone serving on the City Council. This is why I support the Council’s recent actions opposing the OC Needle Exchange.”
Patty Gaby: Has not yet responded.