Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

LA County Gives Away Needles and Bongs to Addicts in Santa Monica Parks and Tourist Attractions

Santa Monica 'Beneficiary' of Clandestine County Program to Give Free Needles to Addicts in City Parks. Police chief is reportedly unable to get notification of day or time of planned distributions

Director BARBARA FERRER, Ph.D., and her 4th in command at the County of Los Angeles Public Health, Gary Tsai. M.D., are at it again, this time in Santa Monica.

The City has acknowledged that without the knowledge of its Police Department, residents and businesses, it has funded and allowed over a year for the County and the Venice Family Clinic to administer a clandestine needle and synthetic drug distribution program in one of the City's largest parks (Reed Park), adjacent to the Children's Playground, basketball courts, and Joslyn Senior Center, and incredibly, 50 yards across the street from one of the largest K-12 schools and Catholic churches in the state, St. Monica's.

Based on our Coalition's research, no other County District in Los Angeles maintains an 'open-air' fixed-location for any synthetic narcotics and needle distribution program. The County and City have since allowed the program to EXPAND to 3 OTHER PARKS and onto the 3rd Street Promenade, the City's once main vibrant Downtown shopping and dining attraction.

And, without the property owner's permission, the County and Venice Family Clinic are distributing needles to addicts in front of the 7-Eleven store at 630 Wilshire Blvd.

We witnessed the drugs and needles being administered first-hand, and followed up with all-day visits to the parks. The secret City and County distribution occurs at random during unannounced times during the day.

The County has refused our City Police Chief's request to monitor or learn in advance the days and times of the program. This answered our question as to why a growing number of transient addicts were coming and had taken over the grassy areas of our Parks, and were passed out and not moving day or night.

One addict told me he was released two days prior from Kern County State Prison, and Santa Monica was listed at the top of a list for the best "services" in California.

We now have a verifiable outdoor mental asylum on our hands, courtesy of our own City leaders. We cannot really even call it a "needle exchange" program, since the addicts are tossing their used needles in many areas of the parks. The County workers administer not one, but two needles per addict., and some addicts have told us they are selling the second needle to others in exchange for more lethal drugs. We are experiencing 3 to 4 deaths per month in Santa Monica (in our parks, on our streets and along our 3rd Street Promenade) due to overdose or assault.

Please see my letter (below) to our Police Chief on behalf of the residents (most families with children) and businesses in Santa Monica, along with photos.

Many of the facts and awful consequences are detailed there.

There were 2 overdose deaths in these same parks this past Sunday in broad daylight. Please see my video clips

Letter sent February 27, 2023:

"Hi Chief Ramon

Thank you for your response regarding the needle and synthetic drug distribution program and your concern about the safety of our parks as well as the safety of the addicts in our parks that are not being helped by a program that, in its current format, is more damaging than beneficial.

We must continue to remain united around eliminating the damage caused by this partially City-funded, County-led "needle exchange" program. In order to expand our collaboration with the public, please understand that this email is not a personal response from me but rather a direct response from the leadership of The Santa Monica Coalition.

It is important to me that a few points be made clear so that there is no confusion as to all the happenings around this program.

First and foremost, at this point it is evident that there should be NO needle and synthetic drug distribution program in any of our parks. The issue came about a year ago when I exposed the "clandestine" program after witnessing people in Reed Park handing out needles. Prior to this discovery, we had seen increased numbers of homeless addicts in the parks, dealers and discarded sharp needles and syringes all over Reed to the Children's Playground, outside the doors of the Senior Center, basketball courts and along the fencing outside the tennis courts.

Up until that point, this program was not made public and it was only revealed to me during a conversation I had with then-Mayor Sue Himmelrich. The Mayor was aware of the program and never considered it important enough to notify her City Council colleagues or Parks and Recreation Commission members of its existence.

Councilmember Lana Negrete visited Reed Park and heard horror stories from some of her other constituents with children. At our team's insistence, the City Council passed a motion Lana Negrete authored, thereafter instructing the Mayor to write a letter requesting that then-Supervisor Sheila Kuehl move the program out of Reed Park.

There was no follow-up from the Mayor or any City Councilmember, and the Supervisor Sheila Kuehl's and/or the County's response was to expand the needle distribution program to Tongva Park (located between City Hall and your Public Safety Department and the Pier), Douglas Park (located on Wilshire Blvd between 25th Street and Chelsea), and our struggling 3rd Street Promenade, a once-desirable resident and tourist attraction for dining and retail).

You mention that the City Manager was in a meeting with the County Director of the needle exchange program but as far as the public knows, neither City Manager, David White, nor City Attorney, Doug Sloan, have ever publicly taken a stance regarding the program, nor have any Councilmembers or City Staff followed up. An aide to newly elected Supervisor Lindsey Horvath told me there has been a change in the position of County Medical Director, and that no change will occur until the new County Medical Director is on the job and can assess. The situation in Reed Park is now worse. Do you know when those meetings occurred? Have there been any discussions, calls or meetings with the new County Medical Director?

California Governor Newsom vetoed a bill last year by Senator Scott Wiener (D- San Francisco), that would have set up pilot programs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland, citing worries about "unintended consequences."

At a recent public meeting on February 5th, 2023, I had the opportunity to ask Supervisor Horvath about her thoughts regarding the program and whether or not she would collaborate with the City to relocate the program out of our parks and into a much safer environment for everyone. Please click on the link to the video showing my question about the program and her response:

Supervisor Horvath expressed the same concern as you just expressed, "the goals should be to help people kick the habit of using intravenous drugs." I agree that the program should not only be away from our parks because it violates State Law, violates the rules and regulations posted in the parks forbidding open drug use and alcohol consumption, but also because the program is misleading. It claims to be an exchange, yet we constantly find needles in the park, they are not exchanging a used needle for a clean one, and with zero accountability for their drug use, the addicts are being enabled rather than supported in making the brave decision to get help. This is another disaster waiting to happen, either by finding overdosed addicts in our parks or by having one of our children, seniors and pets get stabbed by a discarded needle.

We are already losing 3 or 4 persons a month in our Downtown, Parks and 3rd Street Promenade.

The County workers dress as if they are homeless, arrive unannounced, and do not inform you or your Police Department of their visits or hours of operation.

This program has been an abject failure without the necessary collaboration between the County, the City and the Public to assure the wellbeing of our community. As far as I am aware, the City controls our parks and we should not allow for the County to play out their failed programs at the expense of the safety of our community. Any drug related program should mandate accountability and require a method to measure the success of the program. That means, people should not just gain easier access to get high but rather gain more opportunities to stop getting high and end the cycle of addiction.

Chief, there are three simple issues here - - one is whether these needle distribution programs should continue, the second most urgent question for Santa Monica, and any city for that matter, is whether the program should be conducted indoors or in our City Parks and 3rd Street Promenade, and thirdly, if the locations, days and hours (that are now purposely withheld from you and the sworn officers of your Department) should be conveyed to you in advance.

It is critical that we not repeat mistakes that have already been made. We have a drug epidemic on our hands and we need to address this matter with great urgency and care so that we are assisting those in the throes of addiction, while protecting our community from the safety issues caused by drug use, and resulting attacks, robberies and desperation on our streets.

I sign off with facts and issues you, our City Manager David White, our current Mayor Gleam Davis, and our City Council should seriously focus on - -

1) We do not need more needles/syringes, crack pipes or tinfoil left in any corners of our parks, and sidewalks in front of our restaurants and retail. Our City's program is one of the few, if any, that are conducted in the open, in our City's treasured parks and 3rd Street Promenade, and that keeps you as our Police Chief in the dark.

2) We need abstinence-based treatment to get these addicts clean and sober, so they get back on the road to recovery.

3) Any such needle and synthetic drug distribution program should be in a private or in one of the many vacant City-owned indoor spaces, and with medical supervision, and not in an open park that encourages addicts to get high and pass out all day, and removes much-needed grassy parks from our residents, 75% of whom live in apartments and use the parks as their backyards.

4) The program so far has been a failure - - keeping the addicts (and others who hear about the program and want to experiment), in a state of bondage and slavery, where there are no consequences for their actions, and they just continue the same lifestyle.

5) The program has as its main goal to reduce HIV AIDS infection from sharing used needles. But some local doctors from Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center say the "acceptance" of IV drug use has lead to higher rates of drug abuse, and cite the discarded needles, vomit, urine and feces

left in our parks, public Garages, 3rd Street Promenade and public sidewalks as a worse risk to residents who could become infected with infectious diseases.

The locals, and our resident and business taxpayers feel unsafe due to the constant influx of addicts. We have a 'real life' outdoor mental asylum on our streets. promoted by our City leaders. The program is leading NOT to a concentrated number of needles being used in a smaller area, but instead the addicts are remaining in the neighborhoods and now, walking into Midtown Santa Monica and starting dumpster fires and accosting residents and businesses.

We now face the reality of risk to the entire City whose residents see firsthand increased levels of illicit drug use.

Lastly, what happens when the taxpayer funding for these consumption sites runs out? We believe one possibility is these people will be left out on the streets, with no proper treatment and no type of recovery-based approach. They will stay in this vicious cycle of using.

City leaders and staff apparently have not even thought about the after-affects of conducting this program in our City Parks and 3rd Street Promenade. There is no safe place to dispose of these used needles. The addicts toss them wherever or leave them behind in the public spaces.

Are our City Parks and 3rd Street Promenade safe venues for treatment and counseling? Our teams have witnessed only the needle and synthetic drug distributions. And thereafter, off the County workers go.

One County worker who insisted on remaining anonymous told us he does not ever pick up or collect used needles from the addicts he meets with. He said he and his team simply hand out new needles (more than one per addict). The County worker also told us the park setting and the public walkways along the 3rd Street Promenade ARE NOT the proper settings for drug testing, diagnostic services, drug treatment referrals or higher levels of access to educational opportunities.

And our City Attorney, Mayor, City Council and staff should be concerned about the potential of costly payouts to settle lawsuits from those hurt as a result of injury and cuts just from walking or running through our parks and 3rd Street Promenade. Santa Monica is currently faced with paying out over $150 million for settlement and legal fees on other lawsuits. Where will this money come from?

The money used for legal settlements and attorneys fees would be better spent on additional sworn officers you need and more trained CRU units our Fire Chief needs.

Please see the attached photos.


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