The following is a press release from an organization unaffiliated with Voice of OC. The views expressed here are not those of Voice of OC.
Orange County Needle Exchange Program (ocnep)
November 28, 2018
Orange County Needle Exchange Program
On Tuesday November 27th, the Orange County Needle Exchange Program (OCNEP) was informed that the county’s request for an injunction to halt our operations was preliminarily granted. We are extremely disappointed with the court’s decision and wholeheartedly disagree with it. We are working closely with our legal team to determine the most effective course of action moving forward.
Beyond the legal ramifications of today’s decision, we believe that the county’s legal actions provide clear evidence of its underlying position: by standing in the way of OCNEP providing needed services throughout Orange County, the county is choosing to ignore the lives and health of people who suffer from opioid addiction, are experiencing homelessness, or are otherwise underserved. During this unprecedented opioid epidemic, counties across the country are collaborating with their local syringe exchanges to combat the problem. Rather than following their lead, Orange County officials have chosen to shut their only syringe exchange down.
During the evidentiary hearing, it was revealed that the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) was recently awarded approximately $800,000 for HIV prevention efforts from the CA Department of Public Health. With this funding, the OCHCA was strongly encouraged by state public health officials to support their local syringe exchange program to effectively prevent HIV and other bloodborne diseases. By refusing to support OCNEP, and by putting forward litigation to prevent our operations, Orange County officials are transparently undermining public health efforts.
We understand the concerns of the county and community members regarding improperly discarded syringes and have taken many steps to address it. These steps would have been much more effective if we had a collaborative public health partner in the county. Published scientific data has shown that needle exchanges do not increase syringe litter. Syringe litter was present in the county prior to OCNEP’s opening, and has continued to be present since we closed in January 2018. We proposed to ramp up our syringe recovery efforts in our application to the CA Department of Public Health, but unfortunately, we will be unable to follow through with this work due to the injunction. Public health and syringe litter are not mutually exclusive. They are closely intertwined and syringe litter would be better addressed through the creation of more public sharps containers, additional syringe exchange days, and increased collaboration between OCNEP and the county it serves.
To our clients, it has been an honor and privilege to serve you throughout these last two years. Your health matters. Your lives matter. You deserve the opportunity to live a healthy, safe life just as much as any other citizen of Orange County. We will continue to fight for you and for our ability to serve you with the dignity and respect that you deserve.
Orange County Needle Exchange Program (OCNEP) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, volunteer-run, anonymous needle exchange located in Orange County, grounded in harm reduction and evidence-based principles. We are certified by the California Department of Public Health Syringe Exchange Certification Program.
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