North County leaders speak out against safe syringe programs

North County leaders spoke out on Monday against the potential expansion of harm reduction service programs that would distribute safe syringes and injection equipment in an effort to curb the opioid crisis.

NBC Universal, Inc.

North County leaders met in Vista Monday morning to voice their opposition to the potential expansion of San Diego County's harm reduction program, which is aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic in the region.

The county's current program is centered around the distribution of naloxone and Narcan - two medicines that reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Now, the county is applying for funding from the California Department of Public Health to expand that program with a mobile unit that would provide, among other things, safe syringes to substance users.

Elected leaders from Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad, Escondido, San Marcos and Supervisor Jim Desmond spoke out in unity against that program. They said they support the distribution of Narcan and naloxone, but don't want syringes, injection equipment, and safe smoking supplies like pipe covers and mouthpieces to be distributed in their communities. 

"Simply flooding the community with paraphernalia, making it easier to abuse drugs, is not the answer. I’m calling on the county to come back with real solutions like treatment, counseling and other services and job training," said Dane White, Mayor of Escondido.

"We want to be clear that we support Narcan, we support overdose intervention, we support life-saving measures, but we oppose those measures that seek to normalize and expand illicit drug use instead of those that would seek to treat those who suffer from addiction," said John Franklin, Mayor of Vista.

Tara Stamos-Buesig is the founder of the Harm Reduction Coalition of San Diego, a non-profit that deploys a mobile unit to distribute safe syringes and Narcan across the county. She said the safe syringe programs are effective.

"Part of that initiative is being able to provide services on a continuum of care, recognizing that the goal may be abstinence, the goal may be, 'I don’t want people to use', but to get them to that spot there's not a magic wand," she said. "This is the No. 1 most effective way to reduce HIV, hepatitis C, COVID among people who use and inject drugs. People do not come to syringe service programs to start using, they don’t come and say: 'Oh, I've never smoked a drug, let me get some pipes." 

The county will learn in August if it will receive funding from the California Department of Public Health to create the mobile unit. The unit would operate in five county locations: the Health Services Complex in the Midway District, the Mills Building in the East Village and the "Live Well Centers" in Escondido, Oceanside and Chula Vista. 

There are already more than 60 sites across the state of California that provide safe syringe programs with state funding including 4 in San Diego County.  

Contact Us