For years, Take Back Santa Cruz’s Needles Solutions Team and the public have demanded greater transparency from the County’s Syringe Services Program (“SSP”), which distributes syringes to drug users. After completing an investigation into the practices of the SSP, the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury just issued a report which validates the public’s concerns. Indeed, the Grand Jury concluded that the SSP leadership “creates an atmosphere of poor communication and a lack of transparency.”
Specifically, the Grand Jury found that:
- The SSP Advisory Group lacks a representative from the general public;
- The SSP does not hold public meetings or forums for community input;
- The SSP’s webpage does not provide an avenue for public dialogue.
The Grand Jury also recognized that “the community is at risk with syringes found in public and private spaces throughout the county.” The SSP is not able to refer enough SSP to counseling, treatment and support programs. Additionally, the County also does not adequately engage in syringe clean-up efforts.
The Grand Jury’s recommendations include:
- The SSP Advisory Group should include members of the general public, including at least one rehabilitated injection drug user;
- SSP should hold public meetings for community concerns;
- The County’s Health Services Agency (“HSA”) should devote more time and resources to community outreach to promote rehabilitation and counseling of SSP clients.
- The SSP should post hazardous waste signs with one contact number so citizens can report needle finds;
- The SSP should coordinate specific clean-up efforts, and report the efforts in its reports.
The Grand Jury (which is comprised of volunteers from the community) obviously devoted a lot of time and effort into investigating this issue on behalf of the public. We are deeply grateful for their undertaking. Thank you.