After months of complaints from residents about finding used hypodermic needles all over Santa Cruz County, the Health Services Agency has announced a new plan that will require a one-to-one exchange of needles at the center on 1070 Emeline Ave. in Santa Cruz as well as the Watsonville Health Center located at 9 Crestview Dr.
The Emeline location is just over four miles from Downtown Capitola.
The exchange will be open weekdays from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. in Watsonville and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Santa Cruz.
“Our goal has always been to ensure the priority of protecting the public and to use science and best practices to protect and promote the public health of Santa Cruz County," said Giang Nguyen, Director of the Health Services Agency, in a press release. "This plan will make changes to the syringe exchange program, and commence new efforts to conduct clean-ups and increasing training and education.”
Up to now, needles were distributed and collected by volunteers in a van that was stationed in the parking lot of a laundromat on Barson Street. In years past there was a storefront exchange on Pacific Avenue, but that was closed down. The group didn't require a one-for-one exchange, submitting that getting clean needles and preventing the spread of disease was its main purpose.
The program will go into effect at the end of April. Representatives from Street Outreach Services, an independently funded needle exchange, said they will continue to make home deliveries, as they have for two decades.
Last month, that group was pushed out from its location on Barson Street after 20 years in response to complaints from neighbors about drug sales and needles found along the levees there.
What do you think? Do needle exchanges encourage drug use? Are they a vital part of keeping used needles off the streets? Tell us in the comments!