“In a bid to protect the most self-destructive elements in society, San Francisco has put everyone else’s health at risk by eliminating the exchange half of the bargain.” Debra J. Saunders – San Francisco Chronicle columnist
Recently, two articles have been published in the San Francisco Chronicle regarding the record number of resident complaints about needle litter. Reports of used needles littering the streets and parks soared from 440 in all of 2012 to 2,565 this year through Nov. 19.
What has changed?
“Needle Exchange” has morphed into “syringe access“. San Francisco Public Health Department spokeswoman Rachael Kagan explained, “You don’t need a needle to get a needle.” Users who show up at a “syringe access” center can get a “starter kit” of 20 needles. If they want more than 20 needles, they have to present used needles.” This sounds all too familiar and in fact seems to mirror the current process practiced at our own needle exchange – which goes by the name Syringe Services Program (SSP).
Needle Exchanges Study
One of the arguments made time and time again in favor of needle exchanges (and we have heard repeatedly here in Santa Cruz by proponents of a “needle exchange”) points to a study done in 2008….let me repeat 2008 – that compared San Francisco (with a needle exchange) to Miami (without). Conclusion was that “We found eight-fold more improperly disposed syringes on walkthroughs in the city without NSPs compared to the city with NSPs”. One of the authors of the study – Alex Kral – was brought to Santa Cruz to speak in favor when the controversy first erupted. “If you have no exchange program in Santa Cruz, you will have way more needles on your beaches and in your parks,” Kral said. “That data is as clear as the day is long.”
It would be interesting to see Alex Kral repeat his study since at the time the research took place it was a true “exchange” versus the current model of “syringe access” …in place now in both San Francisco and more recently implemented in Santa Cruz.