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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 24th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 34 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 34

Pacific Pride says Needle Exchange Program not bringing drug addicts near kids

By Spencer Cole

A social media post and a TV news segment pushed the Pacific Pride Foundation's Needle Exchange Program, which involves a small van delivering clean needles to drug addicts, into the spotlight the week of Oct. 16.

Quoting a single Facebook post, Santa Barbara-based KEYT reported on Oct. 18 that residents in Lompoc were concerned about the exchange leaving behind dirty needles near a school bus stop.

The piece referenced Richard Smith, who on Facebook accused Pacific Pride of "distributing needles (without exchange most of the time) on the corner of G Street and Oak Avenue." Smith said the area was an active Lompoc Unified School District bus stop. He accused Pacific Pride of encouraging active drug users to congregate around children and called on the Lompoc City Council to "enact regulations around these unregulated services." 

The nonprofit pushed back on these allegations on Oct. 22. Pacific Pride Executive Director Colette Schabram told the Sun the organization operated at the intersection in question because the area has a higher volume of those in need of their services.

A local nonprofit’s Needle Exchange Program found itself the target of public criticism on Oct. 18 after allegations that its vehicle was leaving behind used syringes near a school bus stop. The accusations were unfounded, according to Pacific Pride Foundation and the Lompoc Police Department.

"Our HUV–Health Utility Vehicle–not only provides the only clean syringe exchange and disposal program in the county, but also HIV and Hepatitis C testing and counseling, harm reduction counseling, and free safer sex kits," she said. 

The services are available on Tuesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. Schabram said the times were set to avoid student drop off or pickup at the bus stop. 

"On the date about which concern has been expressed regarding our vehicle being present at the same time as a school bus, we believe it was a one-time, coincidental incident due to changes in the operating schedules of both parties," she added. "The HUV was not operational at the time, but only parked."

The Pacific Pride Foundation met internally in order to change the scheduled operating times so that this will not occur again, according to Schabram. 

The nonprofit says its HUV and Needle Exchange Program help remove more than a quarter million dirty needles from the streets each year. The HUV exchange began full time in Lompoc in 2016, but Pacific Pride has offered the service for several years in the area. The program has operated in the county since 1995. 

The HUV also distributes Narcan kits–a medication first responders use to block the effects of opioids and alleviate damages caused by overdoses.

While at times controversial, needle exchanges are considered viable options to battling widespread heavy drug use. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the one-time use of sterile syringes remains the most effective way to limit HIV transmission associated with injection drug use. In 2002, needle exchange programs nationally reported removing nearly 25 million used syringes from communities. 

Public health officials say participants in such programs are much more likely to enter drug treatment than those who never used an exchange. 

According to the International Journal of Drug Policy, injection drug users who are afraid of being arrested while carrying drug paraphernalia are nearly two times more likely to share syringes, and more than two times more likely to share injection supplies than other users.

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