A syringe on the ground near Eureka City Hall. | File photo.

Last year, as contention about needle litter in Eureka mounted, the Eureka City Council felt something needed to change. It considered rescinding the resolution that allowed the Humboldt Center Area for Harm Reduction (HACHR) to operate its syringe exchange program, but instead it came to a compromise. The council requested that HACHR, along with other community members, take part in a Syringe Advisory Committee.   

After holding monthly meetings since October, the committee will be presenting its findings and suggestions during Tuesday’s Eureka City Council meeting.

The committee is composed of HACHR board members Sarah Kerr and Rachel Waldman, medical health care professional Dr. Donald Baird, Sgt. Leonard LaFrance from the Eureka Police Department and community members Judy Sousa and Aaron Ostrom, with City Manager Greg Sparks acting as secretary.

The committee was purposefully made up of people with differing points of view, in the hope that they could find some common ground in respect to issues of syringe litter in Eureka.

Aaron Ostrom, owner of Pacific Outfitters, told the Outpost that he’s been happy with the progress the committee has made. In the past, he and some HACHR members have not always seen eye to eye when it comes to needle exchange policies. Ostrom’s PacOut Green Team, which does monthly cleanups around Humboldt, had a public dispute with HACHR when the group found a large amount of needles at Eureka’s Cooper Gulch Park.

But it seems that the tension has since slackened, and Ostrom says the committee’s meetings have been surprisingly smooth. “Overall the experience has been positive a professional. It hasn’t been heated,” he said. “I think we all work really well together. We all have good intentions with what we do.”

Ostrom said that the focus of the committee meetings has been educational, with a different speakers coming in from organizations such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the pharmaceutical industry.

Since he was not present at the most recent meeting, Ostrom was not sure exactly what the committee would be presenting to the council. But he feels that the group has been meeting for a fairly long time now, and is ready to see what the City Council will do with their suggestions.

“We’ll find out if this committee is all smoke and mirrors or if some action is gonna be done,” he said.

HACHR Board Member Rachel Waldman would not share any of the committee’s specific discussion topics with the Outpost before the presentation. But she did want to say that being a part of the committee has been a great experience and she has enjoyed working with community members with diverse perspectives.

“I can’t speak for the other members, but I’ve learned a lot from this experience and from the other professionals who took the time to share their expertise with us,” Waldman told the Outpost. “I feel proud of the work we have done so far and I have high hopes that the Eureka City Council will take an interest in the recommendations we will be offering at next week’s presentation.”

The Eureka City Council will meet on Tuesday, March 5 in Eureka City Hall (531 K Street.) You can view the full agenda here.