The following is a post published on the Clearlake Police Department’s Facebook page:
There has been recent discussion regarding the distribution of glass smoking pipes by Any Positive Change (APC) for the smoking of methamphetamine and other controlled substances.
You may recall that late last year, we reached out to you to seek feedback on a proposed renewal of the syringe exchange program authorization for Community Outreach Matters (COM) in the city by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Concerns raised by the community included the impact on our neighborhoods, our youth and an increase in discarded needles despite the intent to be an “exchange”.
This feedback was shared with the CDPH along with a request for the applicant to better address the disposal issues, reduce the distribution sites and engage with service providers like The Hope Center. The city additionally inquired with CDPH regarding whether an environmental impact report was done pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
COM was ultimately not reauthorized by CDPH and ceased operation in April 2021. This month, Assembly Bill 1344 was signed into law exempting these programs from any review under CEQA.
Last week we learned that APC was conducting syringe exchange operations in the City of Clearlake and that their operation expanded to include the distribution of glass smoking pipes for drugs, including methamphetamine.
This week, we contacted CDPH to inquire regarding the status of APC with respect to the city. According to CDPH, APC operates under a 2008 authorization from the Lake County Board of Supervisors, hence why there was not engagement from CDPH with the city and community regarding a reauthorization that is typical with a CDPH program.
In January 2020, the CDPH expanded the supplies made available for syringe exchange programs to include “glass pipes, foil and copper wire filters, among other materials” as a harm reduction service. These items support the smoking of methamphetamine, crack cocaine and heroin.
According to material provided by CDPH, they have determined these drug supplies may help individuals avoid initiating injection drug use and may allow people who inject drugs to transition from injection to safer modes of administration. They also believe these “safer smoking supplies” may reduce the risk of respiratory infections and injuries from damaged pipes. The material provided offered no information regarding the potential harm to the public by the increased prevalence of these supplies. The availability of drug ingestion supplies from CDPH varies based on their funding.
The city obtained a copy of the enabling resolution for a needle exchange from the Lake County Board of Supervisors (2008-42). The authorization refers specifically to a clean needle and syringe exchange program. The resolution requires an annual report regarding the status of the program, including statistics on blood-borne infections associated with needle sharing activity and an opportunity for public comment, including from law enforcement, so that potential adverse impacts on the public welfare are addressed and mitigated.
Based on an agenda search, an update was presented on March 6, 2018. The update focused on the needle exchange as well as naloxone, which is now widely carried by law enforcement personnel in Lake County for responding to drug overdoses.
CDPH explained that California Health and Safety Code section 121349.1 exempts syringe service program staff, volunteers and participants from prosecution for the possession of “safer smoking materials”, including the pipes and related paraphernalia, from any authorized syringe service program in California.
Our path forward is to engage with the stakeholders, including our City Council, the Board of Supervisors and the Health Officer, regarding the expansion of the program, including information regarding its operation within the city limits, and seeking to address and mitigate impacts on public welfare.