A beach in Santa Cruz.

Jennifer Hodges/KCBS Radio

Santa Cruz Ramps Up Clean Needle Program to Fight Spread of Disease

Jennifer Hodges
June 14, 2019 - 5:21 pm

SANTA CRUZ — Santa Cruz county officials are doing what they can to get the upper hand on discarded syringes from drug users. 

But along Santa Cruz Main Beach, there are a variety of opinions about whether the littered needles are actually a big problem. 

“I think there are a lot of factors that lead people to do drugs,” said Carrie Staples, who's called Santa Cruz home for 34 years. “Let’s try and direct them toward something better for their lives.”

But you can’t argue with the numbers. The county clinic and three syringe kiosks have collected 1.5 million used syringes in the past two years.

Santa Cruz County Supervisor John Leopold said, “Disease never stays within its host community. We need to have a robust program to prevent the spread of disease in Santa Cruz County, and the county is committed to using the best practices possible.”

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The board voted to ramp up distribution of kiosks to discard used needles. They also discussed expanding clinic hours to help combat the drug problem.

Leopold said, “When people initially hear about exchanging needles, they think we’re contributing to the drug problem. When here has been 30 years of research that shows this is an effective strategy to combat the spread of infectious disease.”

The county is also forming an advisory committee to manage execution of expanding the clean needle initiative.

But not everyone is fully convinced that the purported efforts by the board will make much of a difference. Staples supports more kiosks to discard needles; she’s just not convinced it’s enough.

“It keeps people from getting diseases [then it’s okay>, but still, let’s try to help them in other ways,” said Staples.