Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County Public Health Director, Defends Needle Distribution Program While Unable to Show it is Successful or Safe (Not to Mention "Healthy")

County began handing out needles in 2019 but has zero evidence this has saved any lives or improved public health (ya think?)

May 28, 2023 - At a meeting with member of the Santa Monica Coalition, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer defended her program to distribute needles to drug addicts in public places in Santa Monica even as she was unable to answer questions about the program's effectiveness or safety.

The Santa Monica Coalition is a group of local business owners and leaders who are concerned about the humanitarian, public safety, and crime issues present in the city. Armed with a list of over 30 questions about the open-air needle distribution program currently run by the county health department in various parks and other places in Santa Monica, they met this week with Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, Gary Tsai MD, and Dr. Brian Hurley. Many of their questions were answered, but not in a way that paints the county health department as behaving in a particularly responsible manner toward Santa Monica visitors, residents, or the drug-addicted homeless.

According to Ferrer, the open-air needle distribution program began its operations in Reed Park in 2019. For the past three years, the program has given free needles to drug addicts in the park near St. Monica's School and adjacent to the children's park. However, neither at that time nor since has Ferrer or Tsai developed any "specific metrics for the success" of the program.

The county does not take the names of those receiving needles for drug use, nor do they provide referrals for drug or rehabilitation programs. No medical or mental health follow-ups are conducted with the needle recipient drug users.

Ferrer and the two medical doctors with her would not answer if they were conducting studies of ongoing HIV transmission rates. They could not confirm that county workers were collected the used needles so they would not be left on the ground at the parks.

The county health officials could not say how many needles had been distributed since the program's inception nor on a weekly basis. They would not discuss how the program was being funded.

Dr. Ferrer, PhD, did not acknowledge any potential connection between the beginning of the needle-distribution program and a rise in crime in the area. But she did state that drug use was very common in all parks in the county and implied that the public should simply accept that as a reality.

An average of 4 homeless die on the streets every month in Santa Monica, but neither Ferrer, Tsai, or Hurley made any connection between handing out needles to facilitate drug use and these mortalities.

Recently, under public pressure, Ferrer and her office altered the needle distribution program to operate from a van rather than outside in the parks. However, Dr. Tsai admitted during the meeting with the Santa Monica Coalition that the health department could not prevent or even know if their employees were leaving the van to walk into the park.

At the meeting, Ferrer remarked that the needle distribution program should be expanded into the offices of the public parks.


Reader Comments(2)

None writes:

Why hasn't anyone sued the City/County for creating dangerous conditions and not fixing dangerous conditions? The City/County are taking affirmative actions that make the parks and streets more dangerous for children and adult taxpaying citizens. By taking steps to create a dangerous condition that they know, and have been made aware, about - they are liable. Needles in parks/sidewalks are dangerous and illegal. Drugs in parks/sidewalks are dangerous. Used condoms in parks are dangerous and illegal. Broken glass in parks/sidewalks are dangerous and illegal. Prostitutes in public are illegal and dangerous. Psychopaths yelling criminal threats at children are dangerous. All of these folks can be arrested for these crimes, but they are not because our city wants these people to have a free-for-all while burdening law- abiding/taxpaying public. Sec. 1983 & CCP 1021.5 provide attorneys' fees for successful suits; it's strange there are no lawyers in Santa Monica.

None writes:

Everyone needs to speak up, every day, and email the county, county employees, the city, and city employees. Make this a daily task of emailing/calling your local official and demanding action to stop this insanity. Bring back broken window policing; any infraction, any violation of law must be cited. We need a clean city. The streets of this City are covered in feces and ridden with drug-addicted lunatics terrorizing citizens. It's unacceptable. The problem in California is drug addiction and drug-addicted psychosis; the problem is not housing. Jobs are available for folks that want to work. The criminal maniacs on our streets do not want to work and, instead, want to collect taxpayer funded disability and food-assistance checks to use for drugs. And then scream and assault good people trying to live a decent life.