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Official statement regarding Orange County's lawsuit
On Tuesday November 27th, the Orange County Needle Exchange Program (OCNEP) was informed that the county’s request for an injunction to halt our operations was preliminarily granted. We are extremely disappointed with the court’s decision and wholeheartedly disagree with it. We are working closely with our legal team to determine the most effective course of action moving forward.
Beyond the legal ramifications of today’s decision, we believe that the county’s legal actions provide clear evidence of its underlying position: by standing in the way of OCNEP providing needed services throughout Orange County, the county is choosing to ignore the lives and health of people who suffer from opioid addiction, are experiencing homelessness, or are otherwise underserved. During this unprecedented opioid epidemic, counties across the country are collaborating with their local syringe exchanges to combat the problem. Rather than following their lead, Orange County officials have chosen to shut their only syringe exchange down.
During the evidentiary hearing, it was revealed that the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) was recently awarded approximately $800,000 for HIV prevention efforts from the CA Department of Public Health. With this funding, the OCHCA was strongly encouraged by state public health officials to support their local syringe exchange program to effectively prevent HIV and other bloodborne diseases. By refusing to support OCNEP, and by putting forward litigation to prevent our operations, Orange County officials are transparently undermining public health efforts.
We understand the concerns of the county and community members regarding improperly discarded syringes and have taken many steps to address it. These steps would have been much more effective if we had a collaborative public health partner in the county. Published scientific data has shown that needle exchanges do not increase syringe litter. Syringe litter was present in the county prior to OCNEP’s opening, and has continued to be present since we closed in January 2018. We proposed to ramp up our syringe recovery efforts in our application to the CA Department of Public Health, but unfortunately, we will be unable to follow through with this work due to the injunction. Public health and syringe litter are not mutually exclusive. They are closely intertwined and syringe litter would be better addressed through the creation of more public sharps containers, additional syringe exchange days, and increased collaboration between OCNEP and the county it serves.
To our clients, it has been an honor and privilege to serve you throughout these last two years. Your health matters. Your lives matter. You deserve the opportunity to live a healthy, safe life just as much as any other citizen of Orange County. We will continue to fight for you and for our ability to serve you with the dignity and respect that you deserve.
You've reached the Orange County Needle Exchange Program. We couldn't be happier to meet you. If you need clean needles, have dirty ones, need HIV or hepatitis C testing, or are otherwise in need of help, you've come to the right place.
We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, volunteer-run, anonymous needle exchange located in Orange County, grounded in harm reduction and evidence-based principles. We are certified by the California Department of Public Health Syringe Exchange Certification Program. As we survive solely on donations and grants, and are run entirely by volunteers, please consider supporting us or joining us!
- Access to clean syringes
- Disposal of used syringes
- On-site HIV and hepatitis C testing
- Referrals to health, housing, and treatment services, if requested
- Other harm reduction and safer-sex supplies and information
When visiting one of our sites, you'll briefly check in with one of our staff members. Then, you'll dispose of your needles in one of our sharps containers and get your clean supplies. We exchange on a one-for-one plus 20 basis, meaning that we'll give you as many syringes as you dispose of, plus 20. We cap the total number of syringes that any single person can receive at 200.
We are a 100% volunteer-run needle exchange. We are medical students, undergraduates, community members, parents, and you! If you are passionate about helping your community, we want you on our team. Volunteers for OCNEP run the exchange, manage our finances, develop research protocols, listen to feedback, and everything else related to the program.
We have regular meetings in Orange. If you'd like to come to meet us and hear about how to get more involved, contact us — we'd love for you to join us!
To apply, email us with a brief description of what motivates you to volunteer and any specific skills to help us understand where you might fit in the organization.
We thank the following organizations and individuals for their continued partnership, support, and dedication to harm reduction and public health in Orange County:
- AIDS United
- American Medical Student Association
- Arnold P. Gold Foundation
- Broken No More
- California Medical Association Foundation
- Drug Policy Alliance
- Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation
- The Factory Bouldering
- Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing (GRASP) Orange County
- Harm Reduction Coalition
- Homeless Health Care Los Angeles
- Illumination Foundation
- LA Community Health Project
- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
- The LGBT Center OC
- Orange County Medical Association
- Physicians for Human Rights
- Radiant Health Centers (formerly the AIDS Service Foundation Orange County)
- SEED People's Market
- Solace Foundation of Orange County
- Dr. Angulo, Clinical Professor of Family Medicine, UC Irvine; Santa Ana FQHC
- Dr. Bluthenthal, Professor of Preventative Medicine, USC
- Dr. Brown, Assistant Professor of Public Health, UC Riverside
- Dr. Coates, Professor of Medicine and Global AIDS Research, Director of the UCLA Center for World Health, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA
- Dr. Cesario, Professor of Medicine and former Dean, UC Irvine
- Dr. Darrow, Chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Obstetrics and Gynecology, Kaiser Permanente
- Dr. Davidson, Assistant Professor of Global Public Health, UC San Diego
- Dr. Deyhimy, Anesthesiology and Addiction Medicine
- Dr. Dow, Clinical Professor and Chair of Family Medicine, UC Irvine; Santa Ana FQHC
- Dr. Forthal, Professor and Chief of Infectious Disease, UC Irvine
- Dr. Fox, Professor of Emergency Medicine and Dean, UC Irvine
- Judge Jim Gray, Superior Court of Orange County
- Dr. Grob, Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, UCLA School of Medicine
- Dr. Haigler, Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, UC Irvine
- Dr. Kilgore, Clinical Professor of Family Medicine, UC Irvine; Santa Ana FQHC
- Dr. Lopez, Kaiser Permanente Emergency Medicine
- Jose Rea, Administrative Director, Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community, UC Irvine School of Medicine
- Dr. McQuade, Psychiatry
- Dr. Mecca, Clinical Professor of Anesthesiology, UC Irvine
- Dr. Ojeda, Associate Professor of Global Public Health, UC San Diego
- Dr. Panik, Psychiatry, UC Berkeley
- Dr. Presti, Teaching Professor of Neurobiology, Psychology, and Cognitive Science, UC Berkeley
- Dr. Slaybaugh, Professor of Nuclear Engineering, UC Berkeley
- Dr. Stockman, Assistant Professor of Global Public Health, UC San Diego
- Dr. Strathdee, Professor, Associate Dean, and Chief of Global Public Health, UC San Diego
- Dr. Timberlake, Assistant Professor, Public Health and Epidemiology, UC Irvine
- Dr. Treisman, Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine, Director of the AIDS Psychiatry Service, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
- Dr. Urada, Assistant Professor of Global Public Health, UC San Diego
- Dr. Vo, Assistant Clinical Professor of Family Medicine, UC Irvine
- Dr. Wilson, Professor and Director of Critical Care, UC Irvine
- Dr. Zaleski, Clinical Assistant Professor of Social Work, USC