How are Needles Counted?
The Syringe Services Program’s Lack of Transparency Regarding “Exchange” of Needles: Part II
Last-Minute Cancellation of Needle Counting Demo Meeting
After obtaining conflicting information as to how needles are counted for exchange purposes at the County Syringe Services Program (“SSP”), Take Back Santa Cruz’s Needles Solutions Team (“NST”) arranged to meet with County Health Services Agency (“HSA”) administrators to receive a demonstration on how needles are counted. The meeting was set to take place on July 31 2014. The HSA requested that the NST forward questions in advance to streamline the process. The NST used TBSC’s facebook forum to solicit questions from the public regarding the SSP, which is a taxpayer funded program. The NST then compiled the questions and forwarded them to the HSA. Less than 24 hours before the meeting was set to take place, the HSA cancelled the meeting, complaining that the questions from the public were “too political.”
Questions Answered Only After Supervisor McPherson’s Intervention
A member of TBSC contacted Bruce McPherson to complain about the HSA’s lack of transparency surrounding its needle giveaway program. It was only after Supervisor McPherson ordered the HSA to respond to the public’s questions that the HSA indeed did so.
County Health’s Assistance from Professor of Sociology to Respond to Public’s Questions
Interestingly, drafts of the HSA’s responses to our questions reveal that the HSA consulted with a UCSC Professor of Sociology to answer questions from the public. It is unknown whether or not County funds were used to pay for his consultation. However, it is clear from his comments that he has no respect for the concerns of the public. His remarks include:
- “The TBSC people are playing ‘gotcha’ here, and there is no way to win an argument that is based on religious faith rather than empirical evidence.”
- “This question is stupid.”
A copy of the public’s questions and HSA’s answers is available for review on SSP’s website. http://health.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/Portals/7/Pdfs/SSP/SSP%20Questions%20and%20Responses.pdf Stupid questions? Attempt to play gotcha? No, just valid questions and concerns generated from the public.
What Can We Take Away From All This?
Disrespect of public concerns. Lack of transparency. Lack of accountability.
And this culture continues today by our public officials and employees as evident by hearing the bi-annual report on the Syringe Services program without giving proper, timely notice, and an opportunity for the public to comment on the Syringe Services Program and its biennial report as required by the California Health and Safety Code and the Brown Act. As required, all stakeholders must be notified. Was the City of Santa Cruz and council members notified? No. Are they stakeholders? Yes. The public AND stakeholders are currently being denied that opportunity.