Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Santa Monica Mayor and Vice-Mayor Remain Committed to Getting Needle Distribution Out of Public Parks After Accompanying Venice Family Clinic in Parks

LA County Department of Public Health Director considers Santa Monica parks to be full of drug addicts - but who put them there?

June 17, 2024 - Santa Monica Mayor Phil Brock said in a phone interview that he and Vice-mayor Lana Negrete did a walk-along with Venice Family Clinic (VFC)as part of an effort to move LA County Department of Public Health's "harm reduction" needle distribution program out of the city's parks. According to Brock, the experience did not change his mind about the need to move any drug-paraphernalia distribution programs out of public spaces.

Brock said the walk-along was part of their response to a meeting with LADPH director Barbara Ferrer about a month ago to discuss moving her harm reduction program out of Santa Monica parks and into an indoor space. Ferrer said she could only consider doing so if Santa Monica officials could find an area with more drug addicts than our city parks. She also wanted Brock and Negrete to ride along with the VFC team as they encountered their "clients" in Santa Monica parks, presumably so they could see the good the program was doing.

On Friday afternoon at 1:30, Brock and Negrete met the VFC team in Reed Park. Brock says there were about eight homeless individuals in the park. Five kits were distributed. One individual told the VFC tech that he did not want any kits; he did not take drugs.

Brock believes the kits contained glass pipes, Narcan and, he believes, a guide to getting off drugs. But Brock did not hear any VFC staff discuss their 'client's drug use or ask if they wanted help kicking the habit. "That concerned me," Brock said. He was also concerned that VFC staff did not ask for clients to return syringes that may have earlier been distributed.

In a separate interview, John Alle, co-founder of the Santa Monica Coalition, said he was also at the parks observing VFC distribute kits. Three hours later, Alle said he witnessed "the same addicts were in the same place passed out or experiencing psychotic episodes."

After spending about 30 minutes at Reed Park, VFC left and passed by Palisades Park - they would have stopped if they could have found parking - and then parked outside Tongva Park near the Santa Monica Pier.

At this point, Lana and a VFC team member were confronted by John Alle, a local property owner deeply opposed to open-air drug-paraphernalia distribution. Because he was filming them, according to Brock, who was not there, VFC abruptly ended the ride-along. Brock said they were concerned about HIPAA violations if their clients were going to be filmed.

It is difficult to believe this was the true concern of VFC since anyone can film anybody in a public park, and they would be in potential violation of HIPAA anytime they handed out any of their kits and therefore should not do so in public at all. In the film Alle took, the VFC clinic worker is clearly uneasy and refused to answer any questions. The VFC workers then abruptly ended the ride-along.

John Alle

Lana Negrete trying to explain what she's doing with Venice Family Clinic but for some reason not explaining very well, so that Alle persists in his questions

Brock expressed frustration that the meeting with VFC was thus cut short as he had intended to show them a better place, in his opinion, for their 'harm reduction' work, which is the Downtown Service Center. This is where most homeless who come to Santa Monica first engage, according to Brock.

Brock said that, "I don't want anyone distributing pipes or needles - any kind of things that enable you to use drugs in our city parks, period." He claims both he and Negrete been consistent in this position.

Although the Santa Monica City Council voted to cease funding any outdoor harm reduction drug paraphernalia distribution, Brock says they lack the legal authority to stop the county from distributing needles, pipes, or anything they want in our city parks. Brock said that although the police could arrest individuals for public drug use once they have the free needles in hand, there aren't enough police to expend on such activity.

However, Alle claims there is an agreement from the 1960s between the City of Santa Monica and the County Department of Public Health that requires the LADPH to get legislative approval for any program they intend to run in the city. It also requires public hearing and comment. Alle said this agreement has never been changed.


Reader Comments(4)

Bobby writes:

If a legislative act is required to hand out drug paraphernalia, why hasn’t anyone filed a writ petition under trances or summit media saying that David white and council are acting without public hearing and legislation? The things these maniacs are doing on our streets is illegal. But the problem is that the pathetic horrible disgusting district attorney gascon has made clear he won’t keep any criminal in jail. He just releases everyone. So cops stop arresting because there’s no point. Then, magically, cops stop arresting and crime is reported as going down. People, please, hold these elected officials accountable. Do not vote for an incumbent. Even a radical republican would be better than what these people are subjecting the citizens and taxpayers here in Santa Monica to. It’s not right.

Opguy writes:

We don't want the distribution of drug paraphernalia anywhere in the city of Santa Monica, not anywhere. No indoor or outdoor distribution NONE! Tell the county to find another city or one of the unincorporated areas in the county! Try the program in Beverly Hills or Manhattan Beach etc. and see how far you get with them. Any distribution of paraphernalia attracts drug addicts and drug dealers into the city. What's the county going to do if you tell them no distribution of any kind anywhere in Santa Monica? It's my understanding that drug paraphernalia is illegal in the first place.

JohnAlle writes:

Mayor Brock left Reed Park after 45 min. I watched from my car, and did not enter Reed Park. Brock approached me as I was sitting in my car, said he was hungry, and going to lunch. Brock's comments about the Venice Family Clinic in Tongva Park are hearsay, because he was not there. While in Reed Park, Vice Mayor Negrete and a Venice Family Clinic worker were startled by an addict close behind them who began screaming a 4-letter word and waving his hands. They quickly moved on. While in Tongva Park, 2 Venice Family Clinic employees handed out at least 4 kits with Vice Mayor Negrete alongside. I reminded Brock that there are 2 agreements in place between Santa Monica and the LA County Health Dept stating that SANTA MONICA's legislative approval is a REQUIREMENT of any health or medical program conducted in the city. Brock admitted he had lost the documents The Santa Monica Coalition had twice sent him. The City Manager and Council have not exercised the political will to end needl

Jessica writes:

It is really sad that our Mayor gives up all the power of the city so easily. There are many grounds to sue the county and VFC. If the Coalition can sue them why can’t the City. It is embarrassing that they are setting a precedent for any perpetrator to act out whatever they want in our public spaces including obvious illegal activity. What a strange world we live in.