State Health Officials Approve Orange County Needle Exchange Program

SANTA ANA (CNS) - A two-year needle exchange program in Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Orange and Santa Ana has been approved by the California Department of Public Health, Office of AIDS to begin Monday.

The locations for the exchange program are planned for areas bounded by:

-- Riverside (91) Freeway, north Anaheim Boulevard, East La Palma Avenue, and North Olive Street in Anaheim;

-- 17th Street from the outer border of the Armstrong Petroleum Plan to Whittier Avenue in Costa Mesa;

-- West Katella Avenue and West Struck Avenue, the Santa Ana River, West Orangewood Avenue and Main Street in Orange;

-- East 4th Street, North Standard Avenue, Walnut Street and North Grand Avenue in Santa Ana.

The needle exchange program will be offered in Anaheim on Mondays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Costa Mesa; Tuesdays and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Orange; and Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Santa Ana.

State officials say in the letter approving the application that the nonprofit organization running the program will work with the Orange County Health Care Agency to reduce the level of discarded needles.

The state pledged to keep working with local leaders on the used needle litter issue.

In a June meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Chairman Andrew Do said he would push for a lawsuit to block the program.

State officials said in the letter authorizing the program that there “is a public health need for these services due to the significant risk for transmission of HIV and hepatitis C among people who inject drugs in Orange County.”

Orange County has been deemed “among the California counties most vulnerable to rapid spread of injection drug use-related HIV and HCV infections,” state officials say.

“Newly reported cases of chronic hepatitis C increased by 201 percent between 2011-15 in Orange County, and the rate of newly diagnosed HIV cases per 100,000 population increased by 24 percent between 2012 and 2016,” the state said in the letter.

Also, “very few” pharmacies in the county provide non-prescription syringe sales, according to the state.

Photo: Getty Images

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