SANTA CRUZ >> A recent Santa Cruz County Grand Jury report cites the rise of discarded syringes and assesses the mission of the Syringe Services Program, alleging a lack of transparency between the group and the public, according to the report.
The Syringe Access Program is a group of volunteers who formed in 1989 to curb the spread of HIV and hepatitis C who offered a needle-exchange program in a building on Pacific Avenue, where counseling, treatment and free condoms were offered, according to the report.
The advisory group is a collective of city and county employes who hold meetings that are not public, according to the report.
The group’s policies and procedures provide that a client upon initial visit will receive up to 15 syringes, according to the report.
“Community members continue to voice their concern regarding illegally disposed syringes and the county’s apparent inability to implement an effective collection program,” according to the report. The report calls for the group to invite members of the public to participate rather than city and county employees alone.
“There is no combined syringe cleanup effort between local agencies to protect the public,” according to the report.
Save Our Shores, a group of educators, biologists, community builders and ocean advocates who formed a nonprofit that cleans up needles on the beaches and waterways, continues to find about two syringes per cleanup at Cowell Beach, San Lorenzo River levee, Seabright Beach and Lighthouse Park, group spokesman Ryan Kallabis said.
“We regularly find sharps or parts of sharps,” Kallabis said. “It’s pretty consistent. Those are our hotspot areas.”
Save Our Shores considers the syringes a certain public hazard, “especially during the rainy season,” Kallabis said.
“They’re very small and they blend in,” Kallabis said. “They’re not only on in the beaches. They’re washing down through our tributaries and rivers.”
Many of the syringes found in Santa Cruz have orange caps, which make them more visible, Kallabis said.
“People run into them all the time,” Kallabis said. “They can be whole, discarded pieces, broken needle parts. We don’t always find them intact.”
Kallabis said Save Our Shores takes no position on the critique of the Syringe Services Program.
“We care for about 85 beaches over the year,” Kallabis said.
July 22, 2017
Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Michael Todd