Recently the subject of needles in Santa Cruz surged back to the forefront when a father on a stroll to breakfast with his family was stuck in the foot with a used hypodermic needle in the Emeline neighborhood area. Read more here: READ MORE also on KSBW
When the question originally arose. Where are all these needles coming from? Take Back Santa Cruz formed a Needle Solutions Team to find out the answers to that question and research what other cities are doing across the Country. There are pharmacies and the Needle Exchange. We investigated both. Our findings at the Needle Exchange found 250,000+ needles where given out in a years time. Also anti-police flyers were being distributed to I.V. drug users from the County funded van at Needle Exchange. Unfortunately, TBSC also called their Street Outreach Support line and received no support or information regarding how to get clean. None of the California State laws were being followed regarding needle exchanges. READ MORE
Many pharmacies were giving out needles but not taking them back. Our finding showed 14,000 needles were roughly distributed to non-prescription drug users in a years time. We are asking Santa Cruz City and possibly the County to pass an ordinance that San Luis Obispo has on the books. READ MORE
TBSC research, there are two highlight sheets and three PDF’s at the bottom: RESEARCH AND INFORMATION
At the same time Santa Cruz City Council in a closed door meeting closed down the Lower Ocean site. This is because there must be a permit process and a 90 day public comment. READ MORE
The Needle Exchange program moved to Emeline while the County could address the structure of the program. Emeline is County property. Take Back Santa Cruz believes that our Needle Exchange program should model that of the Santa Clara Program. After the NE moved to Emeline the City reported a large decrease in needles found in Lower Ocean. Meanwhile, Emeline neighbors have seen an increase. This proves that education needs to take place when handing out needles. Drug users are abusing the system by dumping needles in our neighborhoods.
Analicia Cube meet with County Health leaders about what we as a community want to see in the program. We offered the following points:
- Government Run– It doesn’t have to be fully government run, there will definitely be a need for many volunteers, but the government needs to be at the helm of the program. This creates accountability, responsibility and shows that we, the people, are watching. Oversight is definitely needed.
- Run in collaboration with HIV prevention department– The reason you have SEP is to stop the spread of, and prevent diseases, namely HIV and HEP C. It only makes sense to run it as a sub program of our county HIV and HEP C department.
- ID’s– No names need to be attached but this again creates accountability. How many people are using these services, how often? Are the people using the needle services getting tested as well? This is another way to keep statistics so annual reports can be written.
- Supplies– NO OTHER DRUG SUPPLIES GIVEN EXCEPT FOR NEEDLES. Condoms, etc., are ok, but we do NOT need to give out an “enabling” kit with cookers etc. It has been said by the needle exchange people (SOS) themselves, that while HIV has definitely declined, they have not seen a decline in HEP C. So, as is not working against the spread of HEP C, why give it to them? Other cities do not give out these supplies. SOS gives, ties off, cookers, cotton etc. NONE of these other supplies, except alcohol swabs, is given in other successful programs. It is also shown that bleach nor alcohol swabs, kills HEP C, so why give it?
- HIV and Hep C testing– Should be provided!! And all successful programs have it. And many make testing for HIV and HEP C mandatory before first using and receiving needles.
- ONE FOR ONE ONLY– Bring one back, get a clean one. Simple. And no getting 100’s at one time. Needles are no longer a hot commodity in Santa Cruz because 100’s are given at a time. Successful programs give one for one, and 30 as a cap of how many needles you can get at a time is sufficient. That should give a “normal” addict about 5 hits a day for 5-6 days.
- Mobile or Stationary– The most successful around the country are actually both. BUT that is also because many of the most successful are in large cities where they need to have both options. A few started off mobile and were able to become stationary and now run testing, medical needs, counseling and SEP out of one building/room. But, places like Santa Clara, which is both mobile and stationary, have mobile locations are that mostly located in parking lots of the county building or a medical center.
- Times– Besides SF, most SEP’s do not operate after 6 or 7pm.
- Positive Literature- We asked that the literature handed out come from a positive space rather than a defensive anti-police stance. Give participants options for how they can get help and educate them about being good community partners.
* Although these programs are “government run”, it does not mean that their entire funding is through monies coming from the state/federal/local taxes or other government spending funds. MOST is donations. San Francisco receives $700,000/year from the county and their other $2+ million comes from donations. They have hundreds of volunteers. Olympia receives $124,000 from a state grant to run their program and the have secured additional funding as well as donations to help pay for rent etc
Since our findings at the pharmacies we have been told that both CVS on Mission and the Walgreens on Soquel are no longer giving non-prescription needles. However, a member recently reported that on a trip to CVS they were distributing needles. This is important to know because TBSC wants to make sure they are part of the free sharps program and taking back used needles.
Neighbors across Santa Cruz want accountability. Now that the City has done all they can do. The County needs to hear the voices of neighbors being effected. We believe that the County needs to take a hard line on 1:1 exchange until we can clean up the situation in Santa Cruz and create better needle exchange habits of users. This isn’t over by any means. Our neighbors in the Emeline area are suffering. We now have the proof that the current needle exchange program in Santa Cruz is not working for our community. We need YOU to weight in.
There are TWO ACTIONS you can take right now.
Attend the next County Supervisors meeting AND sign the petition. INFORMATION AND PETITION HERE