Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, Friday unveiled legislation that would allow cities to have more say over state-approved needle-exchange programs such as the one proposed in Orange County last year that was defeated in court.
Orange County successfully convinced a Superior Court judge in November to issue an injunction preventing a nonprofit from operating a program in Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Orange that was authorized by the California Department of Public Health’s Office of AIDS.
“Maybe there’s a better way to do this,” Moorlach said. “If you’re a city and you believe that a needle-exchange program is helpful or whatever, then just pass a resolution or an ordinance and the Department of Public Health can send a nonprofit into that city. So what we’re doing is trying to get a protocol for collaboration here. Why should a city have to go to court, for crying out loud?”
Cities in the state are “just asking for tools,” Moorlach said.
The lawmaker said he does not believe needle-exchange programs are the best ways to handle drug addiction.
“Most people think addicts should go to a 12-step program, then you abstain, admit you have a problem and work on it,” Moorlach said. “Providing needles seems counter-intuitive, and, really, is it an exchange or a mill?”
Moorlach also echoed criticism of some opponents of the programs that the needles are not disposed of properly.
“You find them in the parks, on the beaches, in the libraries,” he said.
Supporters of the proposed Orange County program said past efforts were aimed at providing incentive to addicts to turn in used needles to dispose of them properly. They argued that clean needles cut down on communicable diseases.
Moorlach noted that Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer pointed out at a news conference on the legislation Friday in the city of Orange that most retain chain pharmacies provide needles already.
“So why have a mobile unit come through town when your local drug store can take care of it for you,” Moorlach said. “So it’s not like we’re shutting something down. We’re just trying to provide some ground rules.”
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