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O.C., Costa Mesa and others seek court order to prevent needle-exchange program

O.C., Costa Mesa and others seek court order to prevent needle-exchange program
Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Allan Mansoor, left, addresses people attending a rally Aug. 2 to oppose the state’s approval of a mobile needle-exchange program that would operate in the city’s Westside. (File Photo)

Citing public health and safety concerns, attorneys representing Orange County, the county Flood Control District and the cities of Costa Mesa, Anaheim and Orange filed a court motion Tuesday seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent a state-approved mobile needle-exchange service.

An injunction is necessary, the motion asserts, because the proposed Orange County Needle Exchange Program would “lead to tens of thousands of dirty needles throughout the county, creating a significant public nuisance with serious risk of injury to the county’s residents and water quality.”

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A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Sept. 14 in San Diego County Superior Court.

Last month, the California Department of Public Health approved a proposal to allow the program to distribute needles and other supplies for two years in specified areas of Costa Mesa as well as Anaheim, Orange and Santa Ana.

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However, the decision incited a wave of opposition. Critics in Costa Mesa, for instance, said the chosen location there — on West 17th Street between Whittier Avenue and the city boundary — was inappropriate due to its proximity to homes, businesses and schools.

The City Council adopted an urgency ordinance this month prohibiting the establishment and operation of needle exchanges anywhere in the city.

Officials of the Orange County Needle Exchange Program said they have opted to hold off on starting it for the time being.

“We decided we wouldn’t be operating until after the legal proceedings,” said Kelley Butler, a steering committee member for the program. “Ultimately, we’re here to work with the community and for the community, not against them.”

Butler added that program officials “are just really excited and equipped and ready to work with law enforcement, elected officials and other community stakeholders to arrive at the best situation to treat all residents equally.”

Previously, the exchange operated out of the Santa Ana Civic Center and was the only one of its kind in Orange County. However, Santa Ana scrapped it in January, citing an increase in the number of discarded syringes in the area.

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