SANTA CRUZ (KCBS) — A controversial needle exchange program has Santa Cruz residents expressing outrage and frustration, and has come under fire by those who say it needs better monitoring.

Residents claim discarded needles have become so widespread that they’ve become a safety issue.

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Analicia Cube, founder of Take Back Santa Cruz, said the program for IV drug users is a way of enabling.

“The people of the city of Santa Cruz are not going to let this go. They want to come first. They’re sick and tired of all of these excuses and enabling and all of these things that go on with crime and drugs in the city of Santa Cruz,” Cube said.

Equally outraged is Debra Elston, who heads the organization, Santa Cruz Neighbors.

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“Personally I’ve been picking up needles for years. I’ve done cleanups on the levy and I’ve done cleanups in neighborhood areas and there is a problem with needles all over this community,” Elston said.

Many people have made their point at a recent Board of Supervisors
Meeting, but the County Health Officer Lisa Hernandez said needle exchange provides an essential public health function.

“They decrease the rate of HIV and Hepatitis C from IV drug use.”

Hernandez said doing away with the program would be a huge mistake.

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