Santa Cruz group petitions against an additional needle exchange program

Santa Cruz group petitions against an additional needle exchange program

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - A needle was found by a child near Main Beach in Santa Cruz, Sunday, but dozens more have been collected since the start of the year. "It's my local beach and I've picked up over 20 dirty needles," said Santa Cruz resident and nurse, Melissa Freebarin.

Freebarin said grabbing the used needles has become part of her weekly routine, and she's not the only one. Resident, Damon Bruder combs through the sand reguarly. "The majority don't have caps on the points. They are actually bare points waiting to stick somebody," said Bruder.

Bruder has collected 57 needles in Santa Cruz, since January.

Santa Cruz County has a needle exchange program in place to prevent this dangerous situation and slow possible diseases.

Freebarin said a new group called the Harm Reduction Coalition of Santa Cruz County wants to help, but fears they could do more harm than good. "They're not going to use medical professionals to educate addicts on treatment options. They're also not going to collect as many needles as they give out," said Freebarin.

Community organizer for Harm Reduction Coalition of Santa Cruz County, Denise Elerick , said their goal is build a healthy community. Elerick said an additional needle exchange program will prevent more people from contracting life-threatening diseases like HIV.

Freebarin worries a program that does not require an exact one-to-one exchange could result in even more improperly disposed needles. She helped start a petition which, she said, already has around 1,000 signatures. 

For now, Freebarin hopes to see improvements to the current county program. "We want our kids to have their toes in the sand. It's important for kids to be able to run around on the beach and not worry about dirty medical biohazard," said Freebarin.

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