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Congressman LaMalfa announces legislation to defund needle programs

UPDATE: Congressman Doug LaMalfa has announced legislation that would reinstate and strengthen the Federal funding prohibition on needle programs.

Posted: Feb 17, 2020 4:13 PM
Updated: Feb 20, 2020 12:49 PM

UPDATE: 12:43 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20 - Congressman Doug LaMalfa has shared a statement after announcing legislation that would reinstate and strengthen the Federal funding prohibition on needle programs.

LaMalfa released the following statement:

“Needle exchange and distribution programs as they exist today are doing nothing to get people off drugs, and our communities are suffering from these failed initiatives. By reinstating and strengthening the Federal funding prohibition on needle programs, this bill will serve as the first step to completely eliminating them. Our communities deserve more than their government pandering to drug addicts, when we could be working to rebuild our infrastructure or finding solutions to our housing crisis. The best hope of keeping drug addicts healthy – while keeping our neighbors safe – is to get them into treatment. By settling for “harm reduction” rather than helping people overcome drug addiction, law-abiding citizens deal with the fact that they may be exposed to a used needle in our parks, on our sidewalks, and virtually anywhere that an addict can sit-down and shoot-up.”

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CHICO, Calif. - On Tuesday, Assemblyman James Gallagher sent a letter urging the California Department of Public Health to revoke authorization of the North Valley Harm Reduction Coalition (NVHRC) syringe distribution program.

He said in part, “The situation in Chico is nothing short of alarming,” said Gallagher. “Over the weekend, it was discovered that syringes and shoot up kits are being handed out to children. At first glance, this appears to be in direct violation of the California Health and Safety Code.”

Gallagher added, “Additionally, it appears that NVHRC is not abiding by the conditions of its agreement with the State of California. Sensible people in Chico all agree that discarded syringe litter is not being picked up by NVHRC within a reasonable time frame,” said Gallagher. “In fact, in many cases, police officers are being dispatched to collect discarded needles because NVHRC isn’t answering the phone. Clearly, this organization is not capable of managing this program responsibly. The state needs to step in to help stop this insanity.”

A full copy of Gallagher's letter can be read below this article.

Congressman Doug LaMalfa has released a statement saying he is calling for a halt in the funding of needle programs, exemplified in Chico.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the programs are in place to "prevent transmission of blood-borne infections, stop substance use and support public safety".

RELATED: Hundreds of protesters show up for Chico City Council

After sending a letter to the Director of the CDC, Congressman LaMalfa said the following:

Needle exchange programs were created with the intention of helping drug users in hard-to-reach places recover from addiction while limiting diseases spread through sharing needles. In reality, these programs have quickly become a danger to our communities. The needle distribution program in Chico serves as a good example of a poorly run program that hands out needles to drug users with zero supervision or concern for how or where they plan to use them.

This has led to more infected needles in our neighborhoods with no real sign of it stopping anytime soon. Our parks, shopping centers, and even parking lots are being littered with potentially dangerous biohazards. I, personally, have never been a fan of any of these programs as I believe they send a wrong and dangerous message.

At any rate, we cannot risk the safety of law-abiding people by carelessly passing out free needles to those who abuse drugs. I’ve asked the Centers for Disease Control to cease any funding for needle exchange programs and completely re-evaluate their approach.”

RELATED: Needle Distribution Controversy in Chico

Action News Now spoke with the North Valley Harm Reduction coalition who said the federal government has little funding available for syringe programs and they receive theirs from the Public Health Department.

"Our program has only been operating for three months, syringe litter has been a problem for much longer," they said in response to the Congressman calling out the Chico program. "We are not the only one in his district."

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