Do Mayoral and Council Candidates Support or Oppose Allowing Needle Exchange Program In Anaheim?

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:

Mayoral Candidates

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.”

Grant Henninger: “I oppose the OC Needle Exchange and support the Anaheim City Council’s recent action to join the County of Orange lawsuit to prevent the needle exchange operating 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.


  1. Say NO to Moreno and Aitken

    I am surprised AITKEN did not respond given that she signed the petition to SUPPORT the needle exchange in Anaheim! Funny since it’s not in her neighborhood….

    • I attended the forum Sponsored by the league of women voters for candidates for Mayor of ANAHEIM. Ms. AITKEN Stated that she was very in agreement with having a needle’s program. I was personally impressed with HARRY SIDHU. Harry stated he is vehemently AGAINST the needles program. He is quite passionate about that and in fact he is passionate about all things I am passionate about, particularly the safety and well being of the mostly hard working people of ANAHEIM . I am 100% for HARRY SIDHU for Mayor of our fair city. Does Anyone know where I can get a lawn sign for MITCH CALDWELL?

    • True!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Do you have proof that Ashleigh Aiken signed the Petition? One of my friends asked her and she denied it. She says she is not in favor.

  2. Wonder if non response is a yes? How about a note to the candidates regarding J, K, L ballot items in Anaheim. Would like to know where they stand. Keep up good work.

  3. Resident of Anaheim

    New homeless shelter going up at Ball and Cerritos: This council does what they want. What about transparency?

  4. Correct these programs need exchange, homeless shelters are far from Aitken and Tait’s houses. Put the shelters in Anaheim Hills much more room there. It won’t happen. Aitken associates with Moreno and his group so you know where she most likely stands.

    Keep exposing each and every one of this group.

  5. Please email all candidates and get their view on needle exchange esp. Jose Moreno

  6. Resident of Anaheim Cerritos and Ball – I bet the surrounding businesses/homes nearby do not know.

  7. Please write a story on the new homeless shelter on Ball and Cerritos do the surrounding businesses and residents know. What next City Council

  8. Now THERE’S a wedge issue! Best one since transgender bathrooms. Let’s see how it works out for you.

  9. Concerned Anaheim Resident

    Ashleigh Aitken signed the petition to SUPPORT the needle exchange program. Vote for HARRY SIDHU!

    • How do you know she signed the petition? Do you have a link to the petition that shows her signature? She claims she is not in support of the needle exchange program.

      • Charlotte: Mohammad Aly posted a pic showing that Ashley Aitken signed it.

      • A reader has provided a screen shot of Ashleigh Aitken saying she signed the pro-OCNEP petition.

        Another commenter wrote she stated her support for OCNEP at the mayoral candidate forum two weeks ago, although I have not yet confirmed that.

        Ms. Aitken still has not replied to the e-mail I sent to her a week ago asking for her position.

  10. I am disappointed that the Anaheim Blog didn’t contact the District 2 and 3 candidates.

    Both races look somewhat close, and we need as much info as we can.

    I live in District 2, and would love to know the thoughts from all 3 districts plus the Mayor in future articles.

    Thanks for your consideration.

  11. Thank you for your efforts; just found out that none of your respondents deserve my vote. How about asking them for their positions on the J, K and L initiatives?

  12. While I agree with the public health aspect of this, I don’t know why it can’t be one to one. Turn in one needle, be given one clean one. We all want to get that dangerous trash off our streets and sidewalks.

    I suppose I should find the answer.

  13. Anaheim council had a full update on this program a few weeks ago and I’ve just gone online to watch the discussion. There are no age limits so teens can have total access, they want to hand them out in our parks during after school hours, you can get 20 or more in exchange for every used one turned in, and they have no medical services or referral services for counseling, rehabilitative or medical care. How can this program do anything but provide free supplies to addicts – nothing to reduce Hep C, AIDS, or drug addiction. Any candidate who supports this program should not be supported in November!

  14. An epidemic of Hepatitis A or C would pose a far greater public health risk to Anaheim residents than any needle exchange program. I have lived in Anaheim for 34 years and I do a lot of walking in my west Anaheim surroundings and have yet to come across a discarded syringe. Most of the above comments are nothing but fearmongering. We need a robust OCNEP and I will only support candidates who are in favor of one.

  15. Please share how this will help stop the spread of diseases. If anything it puts the public at risk because of the thousands of used needles thrown on the ground. Santa Ana kicked them out and we should stop this. OCNEP doesn’t clean up or provide counseling or medical support. We don’t want this program in Anaheim! I want to know where all candidates stand before voting.

  16. Cerritos and Ball run same way. Where is the homeless shelter supposed to go. What are a north/ south cross street? And where do we get more information? As for needle exchange, one for one makes sense. However only if they are in a shelter getting rehab. Otherwise keep it out of Anaheim. I don’t get 20 for one anywhere..And back tou original. Where do they stand on J,K,L?

    • The proposed Hope Shelter is going on South Lewis Street/ Full information and a map can be found here.

      As for the mobile needle exchange, it is truly a work in progress. OCNEP is run by a group of UCI college students who are way over their heads.

      Here is something I posted on Nextdoor and sent to all 7 councilmembers.

      I attended the Town Hall with my wife, Lisa. Yes, we heard a lot of Politicians and Candidates speak, and saw others in the audience who came but just listened. Also the Folks in Leadership in Law Enforcement, Schools and the G.O.A.L.S. program, plus the members of the community.

      But I came mainly to listen and learn, and hear out the OCNEP speakers. I did ask the last question of the evening, after the board had addressed most of the original questions.

      But I think the best thing to do is just share what I posted at Nextdoor in regards to the Town Hall.

      >> Sorry, but I am going to be brutality honest.

      What I saw and heard last night at the Town Hall was shocking.

      We had three College Students trying to do a thesis project/feel good project trying to help and do good. They are the heads and run the OCNEP.

      Unfortunately, they are WAY over their heads!

      I hate the term Community Organizer, but that is what they need. A professional who understands the government red tape and the steps, and order of taking them.

      One big question was why were these 4 specific locations picked?

      Never got a good answer, I heard something about light industrial to industrial areas, but the 4 locations are not that, but near public parks, schools, kids programs, and housing.

      OK, I thought of one good site, The Rock Church is just east of Harbor and Orangethorpe and in an a industrial area. But also close to major public transit, which should be a major consideration, since their clientele has a portion that doesn’t drive or shouldn’t drive due to active drug use.

      So besides public transit, what else to consider?

      How about Medical facilities… Set up in the far end of the parking lot near the street and a bus stop.

      Since many of the Volunteers are College Students earning community service hours and many other types of college credits. Same thing, far edge of a parking lot on or close to the College (aka Adult). Also near a bus stop, and all campuses have good public transit options.

      Talking about Adults, they stated that you must be 18 or over to get supplies at the location. But the service is anonymous, so no way to check that…

      They also stated they were treating the clients as Adults, and trust that they would make the best choices for them.

      Alas, a fair portion of the clients have Mental Health and/or Drug Addiction problems which doesn’t make them think straight.

      As for supplies, they basically offer everything except the actual drug. Syringes, tourniquets, alcohol swag, cotton squares and swabs, cookers to heat the drug to a liquid state, sex supplies including condom, and a few other items. Of course, these are all designed to protect the user from disease, or from spreading to another, if used correctly.

      All well and good, but in reality, not all users do that.

      As for supplies.

      If you don’t have any, no worries, they will give you 20 needles and syringes, plus all the other supplies. Also will teach you the proper way to use the supplies including cooking it and placing it in the syringe.

      If you bring used needles, you will get a 1 to 1 exchange, plus an extra twenty.

      So bring in ten, get 30.

      By the way, this is done on a honor system, as the volunteer staff can’t touch the client or anything they bring. The client just places the stuff in a special bio-hazard container, and then tell the staff how much they brought.

      So how did this start? Well, the three college students from UC Irvine contacted some national organization which sent them materials and supplies plus some basic instructions. Somehow they got a location in Santa Ana to start the program. Well, Santa Ana figured out that the staff wasn’t dealing with the unintended consequents, as their total focus was on the drug addict and their problems, but not the community at large. A big one was all the used needles and supplies being found near the location. So they closed them down.

      Well, the students contacted the National groups and was placed in contact with a National Think Tank which supplies Governments with White Papers. (Background information and statistics). They had contacts with the California State Officials which approved the program.

      So here we all, the county and cities are all upset, and sued, and sounds they have a good cases with multiple reasons why the exchange shouldn’t operate until they meet all the legally required steps and procedures. Scheduled to be held in mid-September.

      So that is what I got out of the meeting.

      Good intentions that are creating far more problems than it solves.

      Hopefully the students learn a lot about “real life” that is outside the classroom.

  17. Just read the review of Homeless Shelter. Thanks to person who posted the web address. It actually is in a perfect area. The Salvation Army is already running a shelter in that area along with job training programs. I have been there numerous times doing holiday warehouse stuff with Salvation Army. There are no homes, parks etc anywhere in the area. And Salvation Army, I believe , already owns the grounds they are talking about. If they are to choose a location that is actually the best option. Surprised that they are involved. They also tun a similar facility in Santa Ana and it is beautiful. Now let’s see what happens

  18. Cerritos/Ball area towards Ganahl Lumber. It is said to be in the industrial area. Go to :// City is trying to put it there because of the industrial area. It does not belong there. Do businesses know? There are homes near enough. No shelter in Anaheim except maybe Anaheim Hill.s

  19. The Salvation Army already runs a 145 + bed Adult Recovery Center out of the Ball/Cerritos/Lewis location. I haven’t heard of problems in the area. There aren’t any homes around – it’s an industrial area off of the railroad tracks.

  20. If you go to Santa Ana at night you will see why. The businesses in the area have rights too. Full disclosure to proposals is fair. If there is already a recovery center there we don’t need another. Look at our streets and what happened to the river bed. Other cities should also be stepping up.

  21. District 6 resident here-

    I was a supporter of O’Neil, but his comments make me think he does not understand the role of a city councilman. First of all, his comment that he “won’t allow that to happen in Anaheim” shows a misunderstanding of the power he has if he gets on the dias. Second of all, his entire comment seems to be him screaming, which leads me to believe he won’t work to fix the toxic nature of the current council- and worse, would actually contribute to it. What does he think he can get done by screaming and throwing temper tantrums?

    I’m disappointed Gaby couldn’t bother to respond to this important question, but I’m not surprised. I question whether she is even really campaigning anymore.

    The most surprising was Grant Henninger’s response. It is professional and shows a fundamental understanding O’Neil lacks. It’s measured and moderate- and I like it.

    This post has convinced this resident to vote for Grant Henninger.

  22. Ashleigh Aiken totally supports the needle program, her signature is on the petition….and she is doing it because she is happy to see it in other neighborhoods other than her own (the hills).
    Her daddy’s money may buy her the mayoral position, so be careful voters if she gets in we can watch Anaheim get even more worse than it is now.
    Aikens supports it, and Tait supports her. Barnes supports Tait.
    (That’s why there’s no reply from her.)

    Thanks a lot Tait.

  23. I will NEVER support any type program that provides needles to addicts, it’s wrong. Giving out new needles in-trade to addicts is compared to giving Methadone to heroin addicts in hopes it will help them to quit. Trading one needle or drug for another solves nothing. Both are bandaid’s on compound fractures to postpone the inevitable.

    Many years back I along with MD’s and Psychiatrist got together to create a free facility where addicts could come and stay to quit “cold” turkey. Key to success, the addict had to want to quit at any cost and had to know people would be there too help. It’s a telling experience to set by a heroin addict’s bedside for hours on end, over shifts and days watching, listening and talking to them as they go through hell, to quit.

    It sickens me just how many naive people think they know what’s best for addicts, yet do squat to understand or help.

    • One important point, if anyone cares, is they can kick their habit, next month or next year, when they’re ready… but they can’t kick AIDS or hepatitis.

      The other thing is, although I’m having a hard time talking my advocate friends into it, is a 1 to 1 exchange seems like an actual way to keep hazardous dirty needles off the street for the rest of us.

      • Mr. Nelson, Thank You for your thoughtfulness. Have you ever thought about sharing YOUR story. Your troubled upbringing in a middle class world, your incredible talent, your demons, struggles, arrests and relationship problems.

        It would be useful to here from you, an addict, why it is so hard for others to hold down a job, refrain from aggressive sexual behavior, make ammends.

        You are fond of citing Anthony Bourdain. Take a page from his book and be honest.

      • Yes, it may prevent a few cases but it’s NOT going to prevent or slow AIDS or hepatitis from spreading. Those two, for the most part, are behavior driven. Also, one needle in exchange for a clean one doesn’t necessarily mean that person doesn’t have other dirty needles in his/her possession. In other words that assumption blows smoke up the idealistic dress.

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