Tuesday, August 18, 2020

HACHR: City's Claims Being Taken Seriously

Posted By on Tue, Aug 18, 2020 at 3:53 PM

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The Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction says the organization is taking seriously allegations levied by Eureka officials in a memorandum to the state outlining “ongoing concerns” about its operations as the center’s syringe exchange program undergoes a reauthorization process.

The California Department of Public Health authorized HACHR to run the harm reduction program for a two-year period in October of 2018 and sought the city’s input as it reviews whether to do so again.

An Aug. 7 city memorandum sent to CDPH in opposing the reauthorization details a series of allegations about incidents at or around the nonprofit’s Third Street office based on undercover law enforcement operations in recent months. Read more here.

Today’s release from HACHR notes the center “has never condoned drug consumption or dealing on or near our property” and strives to be a good neighbor but has been running on a “skeleton crew” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Over the years, we have had to limit or eliminate services to a handful of participants who have not complied with these rules, and we will continue to do so,” the release states, listing a series of steps the center plans to take, including hiring additional staff. “The accusations that HACHR staff has acted otherwise disturbs us, and while we find the evidence presented to not support the allegation, we are committed to putting additional measures in place to keep HACHR free from drug selling or use.”

HACHR has long had a tumultuous relationship with the community, with many frustrated Eureka residents and business owners pointing to its needle exchange program as a major contributor to the proliferation of used syringes and other drug paraphernalia littering city parks, streets and playgrounds. But the nonprofit and supporters have maintained it lives up to its name and reduces harm.

Read today's HACHR release below:
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Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction (HACHR) has reviewed the information released by the Eureka Police Department and takes their allegations very seriously. Staff and board members are in the process of assessing our policies and procedures, evaluating staffing options to increase safety, strengthen community ties and be the best neighbor we can be.

Our mission has always been centered in the belief that we must show up for our population, supporting the most marginalized members of our community, and offering harm reduction services to those who need them the most. We remain steadfastly committed to our mission.

Due to the pandemic, HACHR has been running on a skeleton crew. This has made providing services challenging, but we are up to the task and taking measures to improve upon what is working and making adjustments in our operations to close identified gaps.

We have always worked to monitor people while they are on premises to ensure compliance with important safety rules. This is additionally important now to make sure social distancing and mask wearing are in full effect.

We remain diligent in monitoring the behaviors of anyone on the premises and have never condoned drug consumption or dealing on or near our property. Over the years, we have had to

limit or eliminate services to a handful of participants who have not complied with these rules, and we will continue to do so. The accusations that HACHR staff has acted otherwise disturbs us, and while we find the evidence presented to not support the allegation, we are committed to putting additional measures in place to keep HACHR free from drug selling or use.

Immediate actions that HACHR is taking include:

● Seeking funding to hire a staff person whose primary duty will be onsite monitoring of activities and ensuring our participants are accountable to their agreements with HACHR.

● Update our policies to more clearly state that:
○ Any peers or employees who fail to adhere to HACHR policies will be released.

○ Participants who break service agreements will lose access to HACHR services.

● Increasing our presence on social media, updating our website, and communicating about our services to the community more broadly.

HACHR has an open door policy. If you are interested in seeing how our organization operates, we welcome you! Avail yourself of services if you need or want them. Come volunteer. Get to know our people. We are all part of this place we call home.

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Kimberly Wear

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Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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