As required by California State Health and Safety Codes, Santa Cruz County has made available to the public the 2017 SSP Biennial Report which will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, June 6th – 1:30pm. (Item 92 on the Agenda)
Increased Transparency and Accountability
After the County buried its 2015 SSP Biennial Report (video) in a budget hearing with no notice to the public, Take Back Santa Cruz’s Needles Solutions Team (“NST”) insisted the County comply with California Health & Safety Code requirements that the public be given notice and ample opportunity to comment on the report and the needle exchanges negative impacts to the community. This time around the County Health Services Agency (“HSA”) gave advance notice to the public both on the Board of Supervisor’s website, and on the HSA’s Facebook page. This came after a May 16, 2017 Board directive that staff “communicate with the Needles Solutions Team and other stakeholders about the plan to present the 2015-2017 biennial SSP report at the June 6, 2017 meeting.”
County Health is proposing that it discontinue the allowance of additional syringes due to Medical or First Encounter exceptions. SSP clients asking for more needles would instead be referred to County clinic sites for medical evaluation. Clients would then “become patients of the clinics for ongoing primary care, specialty care, mental health and substance use disorder services.”
Phase 3 of the SSP Puts More Emphasis on Drug Treatment
The Health & Safety Code requires that needle exchanges be part of a greater network of treatment for drug addicts. In our monthly reports, we have noted that the County consistently fails to adequately bring SSP clients into treatment (1%), and fails to offer them drug education (4%). As noted above, the HSA intends to refer more clients to mental health and substance abuse services. Furthermore, the HSA is to seek additional available funding to “enhance the SSP as a substance use disorder intervention program to support SSP clients in recovery” and to participate in statewide and local initiatives to address the opioid epidemic.
Number of Syringes Collected?
The HSA continues to convert its kiosk weights into “number of syringes collected” in an effort to inflate its numbers. The HSA does not address ongoing concerns about how needles are actually “counted” for exchange purposes.
Missing from the Report
- Pick Up of Discarded Needles: City of Santa Cruz Department of Public Works workers, as well as Santa Cruz Police Department officers, continue to pick up hundreds of needles around Santa Cruz every month, while County workers pick up less than ten. The County should be provide more resources to needle pick-up, rather than leaving that burden to the City.
- Establishment of Fund for Needle Stick Injury Victims: At least one family was financially devastated by a needle stick injury. While the family had insurance, it did not cover the anti-HIV medication, which costs approximately $1,500 per month. Since County Health is seeking to prevent the spread of disease, it should provide treatment for members of the public who are injured by discarded syringes.
- Negative Impact of SSP on Surrounding Neighborhood & The Community: Missing from the County’s 2017 Biennial Report on the Syringe Services Program is any mention of the negative impacts to the surrounding neighborhood from the program, and efforts, if any, by the County to combat those impacts. We encourage Emeline neighbors to email the Board of Supervisors and County Health. Or better yet, come to the Board of Supervisors meeting on June 6, 2017 at 1:30pm to speak in person.
Concerned About “Syringe Services Program” Impacts on the Community?
Here’s What You Can Do:
⇒ Email your local leaders by June 6, 2017:
The Board of Supervisors email addresses are:
John Leopold <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Zach Friend <email@example.com>
Ryan Coonerty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Greg Caput <email@example.com>
Bruce McPherson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Giang Nguyen <Giang.Nguyen@santacruzcounty.us>
Arnold Leff <Arnold.Leff@santacruzcounty.us>
County Administrative Officer:
Susan Mauriello <Susan.Mauriello@santacruzcounty.us>