SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KION) The Harm Reduction Coalition of Santa Cruz County has filed an application to start a county-wide mobile needle distribution program, and the group Take Back Santa Cruz is joining Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills in opposing it.
TBSC's Needles Solution Team said in a statement that it is concerned about a potential increase in needles left behind at locations where they are passed out.
"The HRC does not use a 1:1 exchange model, instead it is 'needs based,' meaning a participant can receive as many syringes as they want without presenting any dirty needles to exchange," the group said.
TBSC said it has logged nearly 40,000 needles in public places since December 2012 and learned of 16 needle stick injuries, some involving children.
One of Mills' main concerns with the potential syringe distribution program is the lack of local oversight.
"For a needle distribution volunteer program to be acceptable and have the confidence of the community, county oversight, and community accountability is important. An important question: does the risk of increased infection, death by overdose and discarded needles warrant expansion in Santa Cruz?" Mills said in an April 2019 blog post.
Mills said he believes they see more syringe litter because it is no longer a crime to have needles for drug use and they are easy to obtain. He said in the same blog post that some potential strategies to reduce the amount of syringe litter are to make it illegal to possess or use them in a park, on a beach or near a school or offer a redemption value for turning them in.