SF Chronicle: For all of City Hall’s tough talk of late about getting needles off the streets, the city itself is responsible for helping fuel the problem — handing out millions of syringes a year with little or no controls over their return.
And while the easy access to clean syringes is intended to protect public health, the city’s residents are not happy with the situation.
“The status quo on our streets today is simply unacceptable, and we’re not going to stand for it,” Mayor Mark Farrell said the other day as he stood on Natoma Street to unveil his new needle cleanup team.
Standing by his side, Director of Public Health Barbara Garcia said, “No needles on the streets — that’s our goal.”
No doubt that goal is well-intentioned, but what wasn’t mentioned is that the health department is the biggest source of the needles — it hands out an estimated 400,000 syringes a month through various programs aimed at reducing HIV and other health risks for drug users.
The program began under Mayor Frank Jordan in 1993. It was originally billed as a “needle exchange,” but there never have been strict rules for returns, and the number handed out has steadily climbed. read more