City Council Permanently Bans Needle Exchange Programs In Anaheim

Last night, the Anaheim City Council voted to make permanent a one-year moratorium on needle exchange programs in the city.  The vote was 5-2, with Mayor Harry Sidhu, Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring, and Councilmembers Steve Faessel, Trevor O’Neil and Denise Barnes voting for the ban. Councilmembers Jordan Brandman and Jose F. Moreno supported authorizing regulated needle exchange programs after the temporary moratorium expires next month.

In July 2018, the state authorized the Orange County Needle Exchange Program (OCNEP) to start a mobile needle exchange in Anaheim (as well as in Orange, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana).  The next month, the Anaheim City Council approved a 45-day moratorium and obtained a preliminary injunction to stop OCNEP’s plans. The council later extended through August 29, 2019, and in later voted to extended it for another year, until August 28, 2020.

“I think Anaheim does not want to be a magnet for people seeking syringe or needle exchange programs. It’s 100 percent clear to me that our residents oppose it,” said Mayor Harry Sidhu. “We do not want to be the only city in Orange County with these programs.”

Moreno criticized the permanent ban as “acting like ostriches” and “putting our heads in the sand.” The District 3 councilman’s reiterated the reasoning he expressed in a Zoom town hall the evening before: drug addicts are “going to do it anyway” and claimed needle exchange programs would prevent addicts from infection due stemming from sharing and re-using syringes, and address the issue of used needles being left in parks and other haunts where addicts shoot up. Moreno also claimed giving drug addicts clean needles would “put them on the path to recovery.”

Councilman O’Neil countered that notwithstanding the good intentions of needle exchange programs, they do not live up to their promise of eliminating or reducing the discarding of used syringes.

“San Francisco, for instance, has seven active needle exchange programs, and there are millions of these needles given out that are not returned and unaccounted for, and city crews collect hundreds of thousands of them on an annual basis,” O’Neil pointed out.

Moreno’s reasoning and arguments are flawed. Needle exchange programs do not help drug addicts to stop their self-destructive behavior – behavior that also fuels criminal activity. They may reduce the possibility of addicts contracting Hepatitis C, but at the end of the day, these programs simply enable more hygienic drug use.

7 comments

  1. That was the smartest thing they have ever, ever done.

    Well done to the council members wise enough to have voted on the ban. I have no idea what Jordan and Moreno could have been thinking, but it was reckless.
    We will remember that!!!

  2. Sergio E Gonzalez

    Wise move. Why support drug addiction at taxpayer expense and furthermore with all the Covid concerns these needles could be spreading that and many other viruses and disease. Cities need to stay out of the socialized medicine business.

  3. Well done council. Very troubling that two of our council members did not act in support of residents.

    • Joe the flag guy

      You do realize that there are people in this city that liked the idea of a needle exchange program right?

  4. While I disagree with much (most) of what the 2 opponents of the ban said, I do have to take exception to one statement in particular that Councilman Moreno made when he twice said that those who sought to ban needle exchanges were “acting like ostriches putting their head in the sand”. Banning programs like needle exchanges does not equal ignoring the drug problem that exists in our city, our county, our state, and our country. It does not pretend the problem doesn’t exist. Just the opposite. Banning needle exchange programs acknowledges all the negative impacts and conditions that come along with them and keeps all those negative consequences from endangering our residents and eroding the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Believe it or not giving an intravenous drug user free needles (at a rate of up to 30 to 1) does not magically instill in them a concern for others or the consequences of their addiction and its resulting impact on others. Banning these programs sees the problem for what it is and strives to keep it from creating additional problems for innocent people while offering little or no help to those people these programs claim to want to help.

    Being unable, or worse, unwilling, to see and acknowledge the negative impacts these programs have on residents and neighborhoods and not acting to protect our residents from them would suggest to me that the sand isn’t where some people have their heads.

    • I applaud our Mayor and Council Members that voted to protect the productive citizens and families of Anaheim. I wish moreno would go away district 3 needs real representation, very unfortunate situation in that district. Btandman is a follower

      • David Michael Klawe

        In this case, Councilmember Brandman has been the strongest voice for a Needle Exchange program. He stated his desire for a Needle Exchange program the day he was sworn in.

        Councilmember Moreno has been wishy-washy on the matter, but opted for the progressive viewpoint, partially to look different than Mayor Sidhu.

        Interesting to note, at the last council meeting, Councilmember Barnes, in association with the second reading of the Needle Exchange ban, brought up the fact she was willing to look into a Needle Exchange Trial, maybe with the County of Orange. But it seems she is trying to make herself look more liberal for the November election.

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