Costa Mesa City Council members Tuesday will discuss whether to adopt an urgency measure prohibiting the establishment or operation of hypodermic needle and syringe exchanges in the city.
The proposal — which was added to the council’s meeting agenda Friday afternoon — stems from a special meeting earlier Friday, when the council voted to join Orange County in a lawsuit seeking to halt a mobile needle-exchange service the California Department of Public Health approved last week.
The text of the proposed urgency ordinance was not included with Tuesday’s council agenda as of Monday afternoon, but council members said last week that the law would declare the planned Orange County Needle Exchange Program a nuisance, partly because of its proximity to local schools and senior-living facilities and the number of needles that would be distributed.
The needle exchange would operate in Costa Mesa on West 17th Street between Whittier Avenue and the city boundary from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays, as well as in designated locations in Anaheim, Orange and Santa Ana.
Also on Tuesday, the council will consider a five-year contract with Care Ambulance Service to provide staffing for some city ambulances, which were purchased a few years ago but have not been used for patient transport.
If approved, the most the city could spend on the service is $1.85 million annually, according to the contract.
Tuesday’s vote is the final official step needed to roll out a process in which the city fire department contracts with private firms to provide staffing in some city ambulances and billing for transportation services. City Council members signed off on the plan in April 2017.
“This is effectively closing the loop on what was approved by the council,” Fire Chief Dan Stefano said Friday.
Stefano estimates that if the contract is approved, patients will be taken to hospitals in city ambulances beginning in September. Currently, patients are transported in private ambulances operated by Care Ambulance, which has contracted with the city since 2008.
As it stands now, a fire truck responds to emergency calls along with ambulances from both the city and Care Ambulance.
For patients in more critical condition, city paramedics travel in a Care Ambulance for the hospital trip, with a city ambulance following so the paramedics have a ride back.
A setup that critics have long called inefficient and costly.
In addition to making better use of Costa Mesa’s ambulances, fire officials said the new model is expected to bring in more revenue from ambulance fees paid by patients and insurance companies, boosting the city’s annual ambulance cost recovery from $709,907 to just under $2 million.
The council on Tuesday will consider a contract with Wittman Enterprises LLC for ambulance billing and cost recovery services. The annual cost for the service, if approved, will not exceed $240,000, according to the contract.
Stefano said Friday that the new system would give the department more flexibility and streamline services for patients.
“That was always the end goal,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we were as efficient and as effective as possible.”
Tuesday’s council meeting begins at 6 p.m. at 77 Fair Drive.