Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 25th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Town Hall with Supervisor John Leopold

John LeopoldSThe Board of Supervisors recently heard heated concerns from residents about hazardous waste, such as syringes, being found in parks, beaches, etc. What is the Board doing to respond to these complaints?

First, some background on this issue is important. By 1995, the Centers for Disease Control reported that nearly three-fourths of all new HIV infections were linked to injection drug use, transmitted by sharing contaminated syringes. That same year, only seven California counties had a higher prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS than Santa Cruz, and an increasing number of these cases stemmed from injection drug use. At that time, our Health Services Agency reported that the percentage of AIDS cases not attributable to male/male sex had more than doubled from a mean of 12 percent in the years 1983-1990 to a mean of 27 percent in 1991-1993, and that 43 percent of female AIDS cases in the county were injection drug users.

In an effort to help curb the spread of disease, the Santa Cruz Needle Exchange Project was developed and soon partnered with the Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP). Today in Santa Cruz County, as a result of an effective needle exchange program operating for more than 25 years, injection drug users make up only 12.5 percent of the HIV cases compared to the statewide average of 20 percent. The efficacy of syringe exchange programs is well documented and supported by research carried out by the American Medical Association, the National Institute of Health, the Journal of Public Health, and others.

In 2009, SCAP’s budget for education and prevention programs was cut by more than $300,000 by the state, and the agency was no longer able to support the needle exchange program. In an effort to maintain this critical prevention program, community volunteers organized themselves and raised their own funds to continue this vital service.

Under the leadership of our new Public Health Officer, the county is currently working to provide comprehensive oversight of the program. A new advisory board has been created and includes public health professionals, law enforcement, community-based organizations, pharmacists, and the state Office of AIDS. We will be establishing new sites for needle exchange at county Health Department buildings in both Watsonville and Santa Cruz. Additional sites will be identified to ensure access, and the program will be run by county health staff with additional support from community volunteers. New disposal kiosks will also be installed in various locations to provide places where needles can be safely discarded.

It is also important to include pharmacies in any strategy addressing safe disposal of needles. SB 41, which went into effect in 2012, permits pharmacists to sell up to 30 syringes without a prescription. Pharmacies are also required to provide written information or verbal counseling to customers on how to access drug treatment, access testing and treatment for HIV and HEP C, and safely dispose of sharps waste. Unfortunately, many pharmacies are not fulfilling their responsibilities. County Health Services has been working with pharmacies to distribute free sharps disposal containers, and while some have been willing to work with the county, others have chosen not to participate.

Research shows that syringe exchange programs do not increase drug use and in fact contribute to helping connect people to treatment. The history of the fight against AIDS has always involved working with marginalized communities and developing strategies that promote effective public health. It has been proven that communicable diseases do not stay within their original host communities but spread into the general population.  We must maintain our vigilance against the spread of HIV and other blood-borne disease among the injection drug using community. Preventing the spread of disease and ensuring the safety of our community will only be achieved through a combination of a well-supported needle exchange program, providing safe disposal of used syringes, and expanding drug treatment availability. I will continue to work together with county staff and our community to improve public health and safety.

Comments (1)Add Comment
what do they use the syringes for ?
written by lilithadams, April 03, 2013
'Research shows that syringe exchange programs do not increase drug use and in fact contribute to helping connect people to treatment.' PURE BULL - HOW STUPID DO THEY THINK WE ARE. IF THEY USE SYRINGES TO SHOOT DRUGS THEN GIVING THEM MORE SYRINGES HELPS THEM TO USE MORE DRUGS.

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Simplicity Preparing for Thanksgiving

When we study and apply astrology in our daily lives, we are anchoring new Aquarian thinking. Study, application and use of astrology, understanding its language, builds the new world, the new culture and civilization. Astrologers are able to plan right timing and right action. Next week is Thanksgiving (Thursday, Nov. 26). It’s good to understand the energies influencing us in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. When we know these things we are able to make Right Choices, have Right Action. We link heaven and Earth, our minds with the starry energies that influence us. Let us consider the following influences. The North Node (point in space where sun and moon meet, representing humanity’s present/future pathway) has just entered Virgo. Virgo is about food, purity, cleanliness, service, detail, order and organization. What can we learn from this? Because these energies are available to us we, too, can have intentions and a rhythm of order and organization, purity and cleanliness. Sunday, the sun enters Sag, joining Mercury (we have high ideals, many goals). Tuesday, Mercury/Saturn (structured disciplined thinking) squares Neptune (thoughts, ideas, goals dissolve away). Wednesday is 3 degree Sagittarius solar festival (full moon). Sag’s keynote is, “We see a goal, we achieve that goal, and then we see another.” We might have many plans and goals for Thanksgiving. However, on Thanksgiving those goals may be dashed. Saturn (structure) squares Neptune. All structures and plans dissolve and fall away. What is our response to this? We simplify all that we do. We plan on everything changing. We don’t fret. We adapt instead. Adaptation is the behavior of the Disciple. Sagittarius is the sign of the Disciple. 


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Film, Times & Events: Week of November 20

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


If you could be someone else for one month, who would it be?

President Obama, so I could change a lot of laws that pertain to people in jail for drug possession and other minor crimes. Raouf Ben Farhat, Petaluma, Self-Employed



Blanc De Blanc Sparkling Wine is best shared with the one you love


Rainy Refuge

Kelly’s offers killer sliders and pumpkin pie, plus dining pet peeves and wine of the week


If you won the lottery, what would be the first three things you did?

Build a restaurant, buy a house for my mom and donate a quarter of the money to the Boys and Girls Club. Jevon Martin, Santa Cruz, Chef