In a press release issued Monday morning, the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction (HACHR) announced that it will not set up syringe exchange locations just outside Eureka city limits — a plan the group had announced shortly after the Eureka City Council voted 3-2 to temporarily ban syringe exchange programs (SEPs) in the city. Instead, HACHR will offer syringe exchange and other services via home delivery, as allowed through its authorization from the California Department of Public Health.
Speaking to the Outpost by phone Monday morning, HACHR Executive Director Lasara Firefox Allen said the decision was made after discussing the situation with Sheriff Billy Honsal and closely examining the rules of the group’s state authorization, which currently allows for home delivery and pickup by appointment. Deliveries can be arranged for people living in RVs, cars, tents or homeless camps, Allen said.
“We’ve become really well-versed in exactly what’s expected of us as far as compliance with our [state] authorization goes,” Allen said. “CDPH has been very helpful in the process. … We don’t want to do anything to jeopardize our authorization, in addition to jeopardizing the safety of our participants or staff.”
As for program participants, Allen said traffic at HACHR’s Third Street Eureka headquarters has dropped by more than 80 percent since the city’s temporary ban took effect, “which of course means that people aren’t availing themselves of the basic services we provide, including overdose preventions and medication-assisted treatment.”
The majority of people served by HACHR live in and around Eureka, and Allen said the steep decline in visitors is worrisome from a public health standpoint.
“Our assumption is that a vast majority [of former clients] are not getting access to sterile syringes, which means we will likely see a community-wide uptick in blood-borne pathogen transmissions, including HIV, hepatitis C and syphilis,” Allen said. “Additionally, it’s likely that in a short amount of time the emergency medical services will see an increase in endocarditis, sepsis and abscesses, all resulting from use of non-sterile equipment.”
The defiance and outrage the group expressed earlier this month appeared to have dissipated, judging by Allen’s calm tone of voice, but they made it clear that a certain mournfulness remains
“It’s a tragedy, an absolute tragedy — and I’m exhausted,” Allen said.
HACHR will be offering a hot Christmas Eve meal to go for participants or anyone else needing a hot meal on Dec. 24th. “And we’re trying to just do our best to make sure folks don’t fall through the cracks during this pretty tragic turn of events,” Allen said.
Here’s the press release:
HACHR currently offers home delivery outside the city of Eureka by appointment only, as per our CDPH authorization. We are not setting up standing exchange locations inside or outside of city limits. We continue to perform outreach services at designated times and locations as allowed by our authorization.
HACHR is NO LONGER ABLE TO provide these services in the city of Eureka, CA:
- Syringe exchange
- Safer smoking kits and safer snorting kits
- Injectable Narcan
HACHR will CONTINUE to provide the following services from our 3rd street location in Eureka, CA:
- Safe syringe disposal
- Nasal Narcan and Fentanyl test kits
- Wound care and hygiene supplies
- Snacks, clothing, blankets, hand-warmers
- Free HIV and HEP-C Testing
- Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) - AKA Bright Heart Telehealth
Where can people get syringe exchange services in Humboldt County?
- Visit the Humboldt County syringe exchange located at 908 Seventh St. in Eureka, CA. The county’s current hours are: Thursdays and Fridays from 1PM to 4PM. For more information call 707-559-6318.
- HACHR’s home delivery outside of Eureka: HACHR is currently state authorized to do home delivery outside of the city of Eureka by appointment. To coordinate a home delivery call 707-407-6013.
What does “home delivery” mean if you are unhoused?
As outlined in HACHR’s state authorization amendment, home deliveries include non-traditional housing such as recreational vehicles, cars, and tents.
While our program participation has declined by over 80% in the first week since the ban— including reduced access to and participation in our medication assisted treatment (MAT) program, overdose prevention, and basic needs—we continue to do our best to serve our program participants, protect the Humboldt community from an outbreak of HIV and/or Hep C, and lessen the potential load on emergency medical services through prevention of illnesses related to use of non-sterile injection equipment.
We will also be serving a to-go Christmas Eve meal at 11AM on Thursday, December 24, for program participants and others in need of a hot holiday meal at our 3rd Street location. Our 3rd Street location is also a great place for you to drop off a holiday donation. Our wish list includes blankets, sleeping bags, other camping gear, grab-and-go food items (like chewy granola bars) and drinks (sports drinks, water, juice), socks, underwear, and warm clothing items. As always, you can also make a cash donation onsite, or electronically at our facebook page or website - you can find both by searching HACHR707.
Want to be kept up to date on our programmatic changes? Follow us on Instagram and/or like us on Facebook at HACHR707.
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