HACHR Executive Director’s Statement, Eureka City Council,
First, I want to thank you all for doing what you can to address the situation of a lack of harm reduction services in Eureka, which came into effect due to past actions on the part of the city council. We appreciate that you are trying to make the situation better.
However, a bad amendment is not going to serve our community. This amendment was written with no consultation with HACHR, CDPH, or any other harm reduction specialists. It seems misguided to me to put into effect an amendment that will not serve the population in question, and will unduly affect operations for HACHR and any other SEP that hopes to operate within the city of Eureka. It will not effectively prevent transmission of bloodborne pathogens, and it is a dangerous setting of precedence.
I also want to clear up a few points; first I wish to clarify that all HACHR employees are trained in de-escalation and safe syringe clean-up protocols. This being the case, having two extra staff ride along for outreach is redundant. Further, writing staffing requirements into the amendment is an overreach by the city.
Just like the county SEP through NorCAP, our outreach team is expected to address any rare conflict that arises from a de-escalation frame, and they are also already charged with retrieving any syringe litter that is present at exchange sites.
The requirement of such a robust outreach team is seemingly based in the fantastical idea that syringe services are dangerous. Quite the contrary; our population is grateful for the support they receive from SEPs. Further, we attempt to create an environment of mutual respect, and basic recognition of program participants’ humanity. We offer our participants access to Medication-Assisted Treatment through Bright Heart Health, overdose prevention medication and training, HIV and Hepatitis C testing onsite at our 3rd Street location, and linkage to care and treatment. We offer wound care kits, hygiene kits, food, warm clothes and blankets, and many other basic needs. All of this in addition to the safer-use equipment that is currently banned within city limits.
Perhaps most importantly, though, we offer our program participants a place where they are loved and accepted exactly as they are. Our staff knows our population to be worthy of love, care, and basic respect without any requirement for change.
In the time since the ban went into effect, we have seen a precipitous drop in traffic at our 3rd Street location. Jasmine, our SSP coordinator, is speaking after me and will talk more about the numbers, and share some first-person testimonials about the impact of the lack of services. Suffice it to say, without the incentive of SEP services, our population is not finding their way to our other services. This is heartbreaking, though it was a foreseeable outcome, and one which we warned against avidly.
Finally, I want to say that we recognize that this amendment is a preview of the ordinance to come and we cannot support the amendment NOR the ordinance if they are going to tie the hands of SEPs operating within the city. This amendment would greatly reduce effectiveness of harm reduction practices in Humboldt county, as would an ordinance requiring the same.
It is our hope that you will reconsider taking this action, and that you will vote no on this amendment in favor of an amendment based on harm reduction best practices.
Thank you for your time.
The meeting at Eureka City Council last night was as usual heartening in the amazing support that showed up for HACHR, but debilitating in outcome. Regardless, we will move forward and continue serving our people as best we can.