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Chico's syringe exchange program ends following lawsuit filing, NVHRC says

A lawsuit settlement effectively ended the needle distribution program that has generated so much controversy in Chico.

Posted: Aug 18, 2020 5:44 PM
Updated: Aug 19, 2020 8:04 AM

UPDATE: 9:15 p.m., August 18, 2020 - The Northern Valley Harm Reduction Coalition says it has rescinded its syringe exchange program certification from the state's Department of Public Health. This comes hours after a lawsuit was made public saying it would effectively end the program in Chico.

NVHRC says the lawsuit includes a claim for violation of the California Environmental Quality Act. The coalition said it believes the interpretation of the law, "is out of sync with the law’s intent." 

The coalition added it has decided "to not squander energy and state resources in the courtroom, and instead take the necessary steps to prioritize the safety of their community members in an increasingly hostile situation, and to focus their energy on protecting harm reduction services in Butte County over the long term."

Effective Monday, Aug. 17, the coalition said it has stopped providing sterile syringes. It will, however, continue syringe litter pick-up, safe disposal, naloxone distribution, referrals and outreach in the community.

The NVHRC says it has distributed over 2,000 boxes of naloxone and received 45 overdose reversal reports.

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CHICO, CALIF. - A lawsuit settlement effectively ends the needle distribution program that has generated so much controversy in the city of Chico.

On Tuesday, August 18th, Gallaway Enterprises, The Downtown Chico Business Association and 18 other plaintiffs signed the agreement, which was developed by legal counsel, including the Office of the Attorney General, in litigation with the State Department of Public Health and the Northern Valley Harm Reduction Coalition.

The agreement is to be signed tomorrow and takes effect immediately.

The needle distribution program was approved by California's Health Department in October of 2019 and was amended and expanded on April 13th, 2020.

Part of the agreement includes a promise from NVHRC to conduct sweeps of area waterways and homeless encampments, to safely remove and dispose of syringe litter.

And, the Department of Public Health will pay $15,000 to plaintiffs to cover a portion of their attorney fees and costs.

While the program is ended, for now,  the only permanent way to end it is through local ordinances.

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