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Needle program adds physician planning to resume distribution services in Chico

A controversial needle handout program plans to set up at a new site in Chico.

Posted: Apr 15, 2021 7:50 PM
Updated: Apr 15, 2021 9:04 PM

CHICO, Calif. - The Northern Valley Harm Reduction Coalition (NVHRC) plans to start handing out needles again, but this time with a physician on hand.

"Physicians are going to be able to expand our offerings,” said Angel Gomez with NVHRC. “They will be assessing the individual needs of people that come to participate with us so it will be up to the physician to survive what kind of access they give to individuals."

Gomez said a lot of bad things happen when people do not have access to new syringes.

"People who inject drugs often have relationships with people that don't inject drugs, so it’s not going to be isolated to just one," said Gomez.

RELATED: Needle distribution protest in Chico, state could allow NVHRC to return

Action News Now asked local leaders who chose to ban needle distribution what their response is to the NVHRC bringing back their needle programs.

"They say they want to prevent the spread of disease between at-risk communities, but in doing so they are putting the entire community at risk,” said Mayor Andrew Coolidge, city of Chico.

The California Department of public health said, “syringe services provided by physicians and pharmacists do not require separate authorization by state or local government.”

Assemblyman James Gallagher still prefers it be up to the residents.

RELATED: Needle hand out control

“The local community should have input on how this thing is going to be operated and have the final deciding vote,” said Gallagher.

Now that NVHRC has a doctor, Gomez said the local rules and ordinances on syringe services do not apply.

“Our model of the program, that authorization won’t affect it,” Gomez said.

In addition to the physician, NVHRC’s handouts will look different this time around as they will handle distributions at the site on Park Ave. and 18th St. in Chico.

They plan to begin services in mid-May or early June.

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