Goodbye Harm Reduction Institute. OC closes its last needle exchange

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Vials of Naloxone, used by places like the now-closed Harm Reduction Institute to help people with heroin addiction, are seen with a syringe. Photo by Shutterstock.

Orange is the largest county in the nation that is currently without a needle exchange for people addicted to heroin. The last exchange closed earlier this year in Santa Ana after the city revoked its permit. 

The Harm Reduction Institute, which was running this needle exchange, believes Santa Ana and Orange County don’t want them there. Santa Ana claims it was a zoning issue, though it and other Orange County municipalities have sued to keep needle exchanges out of their jurisdictions.

Public health experts and the CDC support needle exchanges. Having a clean needle can keep heroin users, many of whom are unhoused, from contracting HIV and hepatitis infections. Needle exchanges are an important part of treatment interventions in the majority of California counties.