Sunday, January 17, 2021

Eureka Council to Consider HACHR Needle Exchange Plan

Posted By on Sun, Jan 17, 2021 at 12:00 PM

The Eureka City Council on Tuesday will consider an operations plan submitted by the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction to run mobile syringe exchange programs at multiple locations, two of which city staff has determined to be unsuitable.

The proposed locations, which the plan states are based on the county’s exchange sites, include a gravel lot at the end of Hilfiker Lane, underneath the Samoa Bridge, around the corner from St. Vincent de Paul's free meal distribution and the Humboldt Waste Management Authority parking lot.

The HACHR plan also requests “the ability to add more sites or change sites out, as needed.”

According to the city, the Hilfiker site, which abuts on the Hikshari’ Trail, and the HWMA site would be inconsistent with state guidelines for protecting environmentally sensitive habitats.

Otherwise, the agenda summary recommends approval pending the consent of property owners for designated sites, which would rotate on different days. The summary also states that staff reviewed the plan and found it was compliance with a provision of the city’s COVID-19 emergency resolution that the council approved earlier this month allowing needle exchange programs under certain conditions.

HACHR Executive Director Lasara Allen is slated to present the report, which has several tells of the strain between the nonprofit and the city in recent months, which culminated with the previous council voting 3 to 2 last month in favor of a resolution temporarily prohibiting all syringe exchange services within city limits.

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 its supporters point to how the services it provides help reduce harm and benefit the community in a number of ways, including decreased disease transmission by providing clean needles and referrals for treatment services. (Read more here, here and here.)

In addition to the syringe exchange, HACHR’s plan states other services, including overdose prevention, food, hygiene, safer sex supplies and fentanyl test kits, will also be offered.

It also states HACHR will follow the one-to-one needle exchange ratio the council set down earlier this month but with a disclaimer that the city’s requirement was “implemented for the purpose of ‘optics’ and community relations, since there is no scientific proof that this measure reduces syringe litter.”

“Further, we are categorically opposed to such restrictive measures as they are not based on harm reduction best practices, the recommendations of the CDC, or recommendations offered by the CDPH Office of AIDS,” the plan states. “We especially abhor this requirement in a pandemic which is causing vast access issues for our program participants.  This policy further requires people to violate the COVID-19-related stay-at-home order in an effort to get access.”

Similar wording accompanied the plan's agreement to abide by the “credit cap of 100 syringes being retrieved off credit at any one time,” with HACHR stating it was following the requirements from a council resolution passed Jan. 5 “under duress.”

“Know that we believe that the result of this amendment will be an increase in potential COVID-19 exposures, HIV, Hep C, and syphilis transmission, and other injury and disease related to reuse and sharing of syringes such as abscesses, MRSA, and other staph infections, all of which may also lead to sepsis,” HACHR states in the plan. “This amendment will increase the load on local emergency medical systems, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Find the agenda and information on watching the proceeding here.

Read HACHR’s operation plan below.
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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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