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County Exploring a Removal of Ban on Syringe Service Programs

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San Diego County has prohibited the implementation of needle exchange programs since 1997, due to policy that states they facilitate the injection of illegal substances. However, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher is hoping the city will accept his amended policy recommendations that a new Comprehensive Reduction Strategy is developed to include a Syringe Service Program (SSP).

Despite a mixed public opinion on needle exchange programs, the Centers for Disease Control points to evidence that communities can benefit. “The evidence is clear, syringe service programs are a medically supported best practice that protects public health, saves lives, and puts people with substance use disorders on a path to recovery,” said Fletcher. “Clean needle exchange programs are perceived as controversial, but that is due to lack of awareness and understanding about the important role they have in reducing the transmission of viral hepatitis, HIV and other infectious diseases.”

Health advocates spoke during a conference giving firsthand knowledge on the benefits of a needle exchange program. Needle exchanges can have a positive effect on limiting the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis, the latter of which has caused several outbreaks within the homeless community in San Diego.

The only SSP in the area operates through the City of San Diego and is run by Family Health Center of San Diego. However, with a widespread rollout of similar programs, areas like El Cajon, Lakeside, Chula Vista, Vista, and Escondido could see valuable benefits.

The Board of Supervisors will vote on the proposal on March 10 to see if the initiative has support. If passed, the Board will direct the County’s Chief Administrative Officer to develop the strategy, review data using a third-party, and establish best practices. According to Fletcher, a program like this would be eligible for state funding up to $90,000 per year.

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    David

    March 11, 2020 at 11:37 pm

    While needle exchanges are known to be effective at reducing the spread of HIV and other diseases among addicts, they do nothing to address the root problem of addiction. Getting people to stop injecting drugs is just as effective at preventing disease propagation, and has far greater benefits for the users and for society in general. A person who is addicted to hard drugs is usually unable to hold down any kind of job, and many addicts turn to theft or even robbery to support their habits.

    The state created the problem of shared needles by requiring a doctor’s prescription to buy them. I doubt that many people in California realize that in most states a person can buy clean syringes and needles at pharmacies, or even get them through mail order or Internet sales.

    Put me in the proud NIMBY category on this one. If the county wants to allow needle exchanges, locate them away from residential areas, schools, etc. Put them in front of drug rehab facilities.

  2. Avatar

    may

    March 15, 2020 at 11:37 am

    These sites are invaluable in the services they provide. Their main goal is harm reduction. It goes without saying eliminating IV drug use would be the better solution, but the reality is that is easier said than done, and those heading in the direction of recovery can at least have nonjudgmental access to clean supplies. I’ve visited the needle exchange because a woman i care for gives her dog allergy injections. and while she is supplied with a bio container, she has no safe way to dispose of it. so i take it there. a close friend of mine has a classic barber shop that does straight razor shaves- he disposes of used blades there. while many view this only as a handout to keep needles in the hands of users, take into consideration what it keeps OFF the streets as well. the traveling units also regularly offer Hep C screening, HIV testing, and various other services that a user is unlikely to search out on their own due to judgment or inconvenience. i support these services 100% and wish these other aspects were publicized… it might open a few eyes and gain a little acceptance.

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