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Santa Monica protestors say LA County's park needle distribution program is unsafe

CBS News Live
CBS News Los Angeles Live

Santa Monica community advocates gathered at Reed Park Tuesday morning to protest the Los Angeles County needle distribution program.

While the county says the program saves lives and protects public health, the Santa Monica Coalition says handing out needles in three of the city's public parks attracts drug users to the parks and is a safety issue as needles are discarded throughout the parks.

Santa Monica Mayor Phil Brock spoke to the protestors as they held signs that read "No More Needles in the Park, No More Crime After Dark," and "Narcan not Needles."

"We have a longtime problem in three of our parks, in Reed Park, in Tongva Park and in Palisades Park," Brock said. "The county is distributing clean syringes and needles and they don't tell us how many they get back, but they distribute them here in this park."

Last Tuesday, Brock said the council majority voted once again to demand that the county health department cease the needle distribution program outside at the parks.

The mayor suggested the program be conducted indoors, where other help can be provided as well. He said he supports the distribution of Narcan and the street team efforts that help with drug intervention

The County reports that 30 years of harm reduction practices in the nation have shown that it is effective in reducing overdose deaths and blood-borne infections and is safe and cost-efficient.

According to the County, the lifetime cost of medical care for each new HIV infection is over $400,000; the equivalent amount of money spent on harm reduction programs prevents at least 30 new HIV infections.

"We want our parks available for safe use for all our families and visitors. We believe the program should be moved away from our parks," wrote the Santa Monica Coalition in a press release. 

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