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"Revised" Needle Exchange
by Steve Pleich
Tuesday Apr 2nd, 2013 5:24 PM
New Model of Needle Exchange: More Questions Than Answers
The "revised" needle exchange will be operated by the County of Santa Cruz which can only provide services to county residents. As a practical matter, anyone requesting these services would be required to provide their name, address and some form of identification verifying this information. That's at least three (3) items of personal information which will then be in the hands of a governmental agency. While this information will likely be "confidential", it will not be "anonymous". This raises the question of whether or not law enforcement (which will have some oversight role in the revised program) will be able to access this information should they deem it in the interest of public safety.

Anonymity is fundamental to a successful exchange. Clients need to know and believe that their personal information will not be used for any purpose other than statistical compilation or accountancy. Additionally, although the previous exchange, Street Outreach Supporters (SOS), will evdiently retain their role with respect to home delivery, those deliveries will be logged by and through County Health Services; creating a further possibility of uses other than statistical. One other concern is that pharmacies may elect to "op out" of non-prescription syringe sales now permited by state law. This would have the effect of further reducing opportunities for legal, regulated distribution and exchange.

These would be my "concerns" were I a potential client of the "revised" needle exchange. My "fear" is that intravenous drug usuers (IDU) will not access this program in the numbers they have previously. This, in my view, will lead to less exchange by the population the program is designed to serve. This will, in turn, lead to more needle litter in our community, an increase in HIV and HCV transmission and infection and to skyrocketing health costs which will be borne by the taxpayers of Santa Cruz County.

I am perfectly willing to be proved wrong with respect to one or any of these concerns. The thing is, I don't think I am.