City of Santa Monica is Aware of LA County's Needle Exchange Program, Is Negotiating Modifications
"We are in in almost constant discussions with the County about their needle exchange program, and how to get the help we need from the County."
March 20, 2023
This week, the biggest local story is that the County of Los Angeles' needle exchange program for addicts operates in several Santa Monica parks. These include Tongva Park, Palisades Park and Reed Park, among other locations. Giving needles to addicts so they can shoot heroin and other drugs seems inconsistent with family life. So we asked Councilmember Phil Brock to comment on the issue.
"We have known about this program since November," said Brock, a former Parks and Recreation commissioner. "I understand the importance of needle exchange programs, but in my opinion, these should operate in indoor locations. This is safer both for the public and the patients themselves.
Patients should be enrolled in needle exchange programs in conjunction with a treatment program aimed to cure their addiction. Because otherwise, we are just enabling addiction."
Brock said that the City of Santa Monica would like to convince LA County to move its needle exchange program indoors, to a clinic or other building. LA County and staff from the Venice Family Clinic who run the program, however, believe it's best to reach the addicted homeless population in Santa Monica's parks.
Needle exchange programs "shouldn't be done in any of our parks. I understand that people are addicted. But just handing them needles doesn't help them cure their addiction or get off the street. We're just contributing to their downfall at the end of the day. Keeping them addicted isn't compassionate to them or to our residents."
"Personally, I'm concerned because I think the way LA County carries it out is dangerous. We've had incidents (involving addicts) in Reed and in Tongva. For example, a 7 year old walked into one of our Memorial Park bathrooms and came out carrying a needle. "Mommy look! here's a needle.,' she said."
"Our primary function as a municipal government is to keep our residents safe. But we must recognize that there are hundreds of homeless people in Santa Monica. Their needs have to be met in order to keep our residents safe as well."
"I wish LA county would help us with caseworkers for mental health. Giving homeless people needles doesn't help them as much as providing them with psychological counseling. I believe the county is misguided. We do need more help from them, but the proper kind of help."
"San Francisco has a tremendous drug problem in the Castro, their tourist industry has dropped, hotel prices are down. They reclaimed Union Square by putting police mobile units and reclaiming the area. Our problems are miniature by comparison to Seattle or San Francisco."
"We're the end of Route 66. We have numerous business. The Metro terminus is part of the problem. At the end of the day, the metro lets everyone out on 4th street. They meander to our beaches and to Tongva. A few of them who are addicted commit crimes to feed their drug habits."
"Our police did a sting operation at TJ Maxx they caught 6 shoplifters in 4 hours. These people exchange the stolen goods for drugs.
"We need help from LA County. Our City Manager David White is in almost constant discussions with the County about their needle exchange program, and how to get the help we need from the County." Brock concluded.