Needles on the beach are a direct impact to the quality of life in Santa Cruz
Junior Guards finding used syringes on three separate beaches is very disturbing. And one young Junior Guards member getting stuck by a discarded syringe is a horror no parent would ever want to face.
Why are there so many discarded needles being found in public spaces; beaches, on the river levee, downtown and in many neighborhoods? Where are these needles coming from? And why are they so casually left behind?
Most of the needles discovered are found with an assortment of “accessories” that are distributed by our county needle exchange
So it’s likely that the exchange is the source of the discarded syringes. But, if it’s an exchange why aren’t these used syringes going back to be exchanged for new clean syringes? The answer is that there is no requirement to return a used syringe for a new syringe. A “customer” can obtain 100 syringes each time they visit the facility.
With no “one for one” requirement, the value of a used syringe is zero
It’s sorta like back when there was no deposit on soda cans, we had a soda can litter problem. People are prone to toss things that have no value. So now we have a used syringe litter problem. Although not quite as harmless as a hastily discarded can, used syringes are a biomedical hazardous waste item. Your local hospital would be fined tens of thousands of dollars were they littering our beaches with used syringes.
The concept of a needle exchange may not be all bad, when it is a needle exchange. Other Counties have true exchanges and no or little needle litter. We don’t have a needle exchange in Santa Cruz County. What we have is a “Syringe Services Program”.
A quiet policy change has evolved over the past decade that may be contributing to the rise in complaints
San Francisco no longer requires that addicts turn in a dirty needle for every clean needle they receive at city programs. In fact, since 2008, the practice has been termed “syringe access” rather than “needle exchange” — the same change that has occurred at handout programs across the country.
So, when is a needle exchange not a needle exchange? When it’s a Syringe Services Program.
“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
“It’s called a needle exchange because intravenous drug users are supposed to exchange used syringes for clean ones to reduce the spread of disease. But it looks more like a needle supply.”
- Keep the County and City aware that there is an ongoing problem
- Determine if the needles found in public spaces are increasing or decreasing
- Provide data to the City and County so that “hot spot” patterns can be identified for City/County cleanup
- Give the community a place to log their finds.