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Santa Monica residents protest to stop LA County's needle distribution program in city

Santa Monica residents and parents secured thousands of signatures as they prepared to sue the city to halt Los Angeles County’s needle distribution program.

The needle distribution program has been operated at Reed Park in Santa Monica for over two years. The program, which provides free clean needles, Narcan and fentanyl testing strips, aims to help those struggling with drug addiction. However, critics say the program harms the people who live here.

“It’s not clean, it’s not safe,” Angela DiGaetano, a parent and Santa Monica resident, said. “It’s scary over here.”

The needle distribution is done weekly by the Venice Family Clinic under the guidance of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.

Santa Monica Mayor Phil Brock said the distribution has not stopped, despite multiple objections from city council members. He believes the program is drawing more people with addictions and said the impact is getting worse.

“While we are always compassionate toward those who are unhoused in our city, we also must be compassionate to our residents, who are fearful about coming to this park,” Brock said.

Proponents of the needle exchange say it reduces the spread of HIV and Hepatitis. 

“This is happening in the city of Santa Monica, yet the city of Santa Monica can’t seem to stop it,” he said. “The county of LA and the state of California have control of our health directives.”

More than 22,000 signatures have been secured to end the program in Santa Monica. 

“We’re not asking for anything crazy. We’re just saying take the needles and move them elsewhere,” Brock said.

Mayor Brock said he has a meeting scheduled with LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer to convince her that the needle exchange program does more good than harm.

The LA County Department of Public Health and the city manager of Santa Monica declined a request for comment.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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