Santa Monica— Santa Monica’s open-air needle exchange program, which provides syringes, Naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and condoms in public parks, is drawing criticism.
Opponents say the mobile program promotes addiction, draws transients to the coastal neighborhood, steals public places, and endangers inhabitants. Municipal and law enforcement officials are likewise concerned and want the services indoors.
Yet, Los Angeles County, which funds and oversees the program, claims that harm reduction services minimize overdose deaths, public injection drug use, and communicable disease transmission, protecting public health and safety during the worst opioid crisis in history.
Homeless persons can be observed in Santa Monica parks and public spaces doing drugs, urinating, defecating, and sleeping on benches and tables.
John Alle, property owner, homeowner, and Santa Monica Coalition Co-founder calls them “transient junkies” and thinks street-based mobile services like the “Harm Reduction Syringe Services Program” are attracting them.
LA County and Venice Family Clinic (VFC) needle exchange employees offer clean syringes, Naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and condoms to the city’s homeless. While used needles litter the city’s parks, Alle claims it’s more of a distribution service than an exchange.
. Alle said he has spoken to recipients of the parcels, who stated they are often given two clean needles, one of which they use and the other they sell to get substances like methamphetamine that don’t require syringes.
Santa Monica’s program, contracted by the Department of Public Health’s Division of Substance Abuse Prevention and Control (DPH-SAPC), operates no more than three hours per week in Reed Park, Tongva Park, Palisades Park, The Incline, the 7-Eleven at 7th Street and Wilshire Boulevard, and the 3rd Street Promenade. The Department told Fox 11:
. In September 2022, then-Mayor Sue Himmelrich wrote an open letter to county officials encouraging them to move the program indoors. Mayor Gleam Davis said Santa Monica is dedicated to addressing homelessness holistically and compassionately:
“Santa Monica has encouraged the LA County Department of Public Health to shift their Harm Reduction Syringe Service Program to a service-rich venue (ideally indoors) where substance abuse, mental health, and other service users can coordinate and work directly with providers.
We plan to engage with the County on new substance misuse treatment methods “City spokesperson Davis stated.
The Santa Monica Police Department informed FOX 11 that Safe Syringe Programs “should be done in a confined and supervised environment, and away from public locations such as our parks” despite their “decrease of health risk behaviors for drug users.”
The county says most harm reduction groups perform mobile work, so similar programs generally operate alongside them in locations where they’re offered, including Skid Row in LA.
Santa Monica receives 250 needles every month from DPH-SAPC and Venice Family Clinic (VFC). The VFC Clinic SUMMIT programme refers to substance abusers, and if they need medical attention, the clinic’s homeless outreach section will visit them.
The county claimed, “any interaction individuals have with outreach personnel becomes an opportunity to explore how they might minimize their risk for overdose and enable residents to connect with treatment when they are ready.”
Alle claims that most addicts in Santa Monica’s public settings cannot physically go to treatment. He believes that clinics should operate 24/7 and offer medical supervision alongside needle exchanges.
Alle remarked, “We want parks for families and kids.” “We want the homeless to have a place to stay from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. to avoid the cold and rain.
We want them treated. We demand mental health facilities for psychosis, schizophrenia, drug rehab, and alcoholism.”
The Santa Monica Coalition is made up of city residents and business owners who want to improve public safety.