More San Francisco nonsense: “Needle-exchange” program not working out as planned

Cross-posted at Jules Crittenden’s blog.

Last night, I blogged about San Francisco’s “black flight” problem, and how “city leaders” were trying to come up with ways to bring back the “character” black people bring to San Francisco, you know, the black people they pushed out with their high-cost liberalism in the first place.

Inspired by that story, a tipster emailed today to alert me as to recent developments going on with San Francisco’s “needle-exchange” program, one that city planners put into place about 15 years ago in an effort to combat the spread of AIDS and other diseases that can be caught as a result of the reusing/sharing of old needles by junkies. Back in late July, Brit Hume noted via a San Francisco Chronicle report where Parks Department workers said they were finding around 200 used needles per day discarded in Golden Gate Park. Here’s more backstory, via an August 3rd SF Chronicle piece:

City officials and nonprofit agency leaders, responding to an outcry over used syringes littering parks, say they are looking at ways to reform San Francisco’s needle-exchange program – including locked, 24-hour syringe drop boxes and technologically advanced syringes.

The city’s needle-exchange program gives out 2.4 million needles a year and receives 65 to 70 percent of them back after they’re used. Other cities – including Portland, Seattle and jurisdictions throughout New Mexico – have return rates of well over 90 percent.

In San Francisco, The Chronicle reported recently, many unreturned needles wind up in parks, playgrounds and other outdoor expanses.

“We can recover a lot more needles,” said Mark Cloutier, executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, which runs most of the city’s needle-exchange sites. “We understand it’s a public health problem, and we’re excited about the attention that’s happening.”

Cloutier said a locked, 24-hour biohazard drop box will be installed on Sixth Street within the next six weeks. It will be available for anonymous needle drop-off any time, sort of like drop boxes for library books or rented movies. The AIDS Foundation likely will test it for six months but expects to open others around the city.

“We’re not going to put it in the middle of Union Square,” he said. “It’s where people can experience some anonymity.”

Yes, I mean, we wouldn’t want the public to go through the awful experience of actually having to see a user injecting him or herself with a publicly funded needle, would we?


Public health officials also will meet soon with manufacturers of retractable syringes – in which the needle fully retracts into the syringe’s barrel after one injection. These are considered much safer than the syringes commonly used and would prevent children or others who pick up dropped syringes from infecting themselves.

Oh gosh! Thank goodness! The translation for that is: “Though we’ve given up on the city’s drug users, we want to make sure our parks stay safe for the cheeeeldren.” Of course that doesn’t take into account the fact that a child touching the syringe barrel in and of itself can be a health hazard, considering that drug users who commence in their habits in public parks aren’t likely to have much concern as to whether or not a little blood drips onto the hand they’ve used to hold the needle in the first place, or anything.


Other options are on the table, too.

Tracey Packer, interim director of the health department’s HIV Prevention Program, said officials are looking at providing homeless outreach workers with biohazard boxes to carry with them, giving users of the needle-exchange programs small biohazard packs that can carry 10 used needles at a time and better educating users about needle safety.

Great point. Because usually a drug user’s number one priority is safety when shooting up. They just need a little ‘reminding’ every once in a while.

Still more:

The San Francisco needle-exchange program was begun in 1992 under Mayor Frank Jordan. The Public Health Department contracts with the AIDS Foundation, the Homeless Youth Alliance and Tenderloin Health to run the exchanges at a total of $850,000 a year.

But, as reported recently by The Chronicle, not everyone is returning the needles, and parents are sharing horror stories about their children finding needles in parks and playgrounds.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty said Thursday he successfully advocated for the closure of a play area at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center because children were finding needles in the sand.

“I have a child, and I want my child to be able to play in the sand, but I no longer felt comfortable having a playground feature be dangerous like that,” he said. “I’m open to ideas.”

How about that? A play area for children had to be closed because drug users weren’t responsible enough to properly dispose of their needles. Got that? The children have suffered. Where’s the outrage?!

Mayor Gavin Newsom last week asked Katz to come up with ways to make needle disposal easier and safer. The issue is politically tricky because disease prevention and social services are important to San Franciscans, but so are public safety and clean parks and playgrounds.

“This is a difficult situation, but we can’t end our needle-exchange program,” said Newsom’s press secretary, Nathan Ballard. “It saves lives.”

That’s a ‘progressive’ approach, eh? Giving needles to junkies ‘saves lives.’ Maybe not theirs, but somebody’s, anyway (I guess).

In an update to this developing problem in San Francisco (yet another one they created, by the way), there are growing calls for an “injection center” in hopes that the same drug users who aren’t responsible enough to properly dispose of their needle after use will use to both inject and dispose:

A month after we chronicled “the march of the junkies” at the needle exchange center near Golden Gate Park, longtime neighbors say things have improved. Residents who live near the center on Haight said it was the source of used syringes being discarded in the park and in their yards by drug users.

“It has lightened up, I have to admit,” says Les Silverman, who has lived a block from the Panhandle on Cole Street since 1975 and told us he’d found needles in his front yard garden. “It’s a little better.”

Park gardeners (who have been told not to talk to the media) say they are coming across fewer needles, and our recent morning trip to the park did not find nearly as many syringes as a month earlier.

That’s great. But insiders say it doesn’t have anything to do with serious reform in the way needles are distributed to intravenous drug users, something the city has been facilitating since 1992 to curb the spread of disease.

“As much as I’d like to claim credit,” says Peter Davidson, chairman of the board of the Homeless Youth Alliance, which runs the Haight needle exchange, “I think it is because of the police doing these sweeps and moving people out.”

Again, that’s terrific, but how long will the sweeps last? (A police source tells us that four officers and a sergeant are being pulled off the street for two hours every morning.)

Awesome, eh? In addition to all their other responsiblities, the five officers from the SF police force have to spend two hours every day telling drug users to shove off of public park property, which sounds suspiciously like a violation of a 2006 9th Circus Court ruling, which stated, in essence, that homeless people had a ‘constitutional right’ to loiter and sleep on public property. Where’s the love?

If we’re really serious about a long-term solution for discarded needles littering our parks, it may be time for a bold, new initiative – a city-sponsored injection center where drug users could go, receive a clean needle, and inject themselves in a sanitary environment.

Sounds shocking, doesn’t it?

Dr. Thomas Kerr, an HIV/AIDS researcher at the University of British Columbia, who has studied an injection facility in Vancouver – the only one in North America – understands the reaction.

“When the average person first hears about it,” says Kerr, who has studied the Vancouver facility for four years, “They say, ‘Oh my God, this is going to make drug use go crazy.’ People think it enables drug use.”

But the concept of a needle exchange faced the same kind of opposition 20 years ago. Other countries, including Switzerland, Germany and Canada, have used the injection facility concept successfully, but it has not been tried in the United States.

Davidson says he was at a conference recently when a Swiss researcher was asked about the program.

“It is not because the Swiss are nice to junkies,” the researcher said, according to Davidson. “It is because injecting is a public nuisance, and we wanted to get them off the street.”

Kerr puts it this way: “If you don’t like seeing addicts injecting in public places, if you are concerned about finding discarded needles, if you have a problem with public order, the injection facility does make sense.”

Right. Again, because we don’t want the public to actually see what they’re paying $850,000 a year for. For that matter, the public themselves probably don’t want to see it either, and take the attitude of “go ahead and do it, I just don’t wanna see it.” For “safety” reasons, they’re ok with it happening, but it’s not exactly the kind of local “character” they want in their public parks, it would appear.

There’s certainly a need for something. Davidson says it is no wonder we found discarded needles when we toured Golden Gate Park in July. He says there are an estimated 15,000 “injecting users” in San Francisco, many of whom inject drugs as many as 10 times a day.

“You’re talking about millions of ‘injectable events,’ ” Davidson says.


“Users are very concerned and fear arrest by SFPD, and this may be motivation for discarding syringes in haste,” said a recent report on the topic by San Francisco’s Department of Public Health.

That’s two good reasons why users are more likely to toss a needle in the bushes, rather than dispose of it safely

Great. Then that injection center will ‘solve’ three problems for drug users: 1) being caught by the cops, 2) having a place to dispose of their drug needles, and 3) it’ll give ’em a place to hang out and mingle with other users. Sort of like a ‘networking’ type atmosphere for druggies. And the city gets to hide its drug-using contingent from public view. Out of sight, out of mind. Sweet.

An understatement, to be sure. Residents and neighbors to Golden Gate Park are understandably shocked to find used needles during their daily walks. The public health department has gotten that message.

Why would they be “shocked”? Are they actually that clueless to believe that a program that essentially encourages street drug users to keep on doing it is going to inspire those same users to dispose properly of the needles they’re getting ‘free’ of charge? Yeah, I already know the answer to that one.

It also is safe to say that the city is keeping closer tabs on local needle exchange facilities and how they’re working. Although all 17 of the facilities are technically independent, a large part of their funding ($275,000 in the case of the Haight exchange) comes from the city.

“The great thing about this,” Davidson says, “is that we have really had it shoved in our faces how we affect the community. We all have a real interest in getting along with the neighbors. If there are needles in the park, it is bad for everyone.”

Awww. Translation: “We created the problem in the first place, and it’s really cool that we’re all coming together to try and clean up our own mess. Group hug, everyone!”

I’d say rather than funding the habits of repeat offender drug users by offering them “free” needles to inject themselves with, what SF needs is a heavy duty injection of common sense. Unfortunately, I’m afraid there’s not a syringe big enough in the world to inject the amount needed to bring back any significant measure of logic and reason to this bastion of liberal incompetency and ineffectualness.

This story is a stark example of why liberalism breeds failure (in spite of what the lefty elites on college campuses try to tell you). It doesn’t encourage the best in anyone; instead, it encourages people to believe that certain types of problematic behavior shouldn’t be changed, and that we should just “accept” it. It should be “tolerated” because “they’re going to do it anyway.” In instances like this one, we see where instead of trying to win the battle against drugs in SF, liberals in SF encourage it by offering “free” needles – and perhaps in the future, a city-funded “injection center.”

We also see it in sex education programs offered to teens and pre-teens alike in our public schools. “Progressives” give up by saying that “kids are going to ‘do it’ anyway, so we might as well show ’em how to do it ‘safely.'” Same same regarding drinking. Young teens are “not” going to stop drinking, so we need to run ads telling them that if they drink during prom season, please don’t drive. In some places, there is actually a ‘debate’ going on about whether or not parents holding “teen drinking parties” is a good idea. In academia, in the workplace, and in the military, among other places, standards are lowered, not raised, so that the goal becomes less about genuine individual achievement and fulfilment and more about making those who are less inclined to go the distance when the standards are set high ‘feel good’ about themselves for ‘trying.’

Modern-day liberalism is not about bringing out the best in anyone, contrary to popular belief. At its best, it encourages mediocrity and “sameness” because it’s “unfair” that there are some who are just clearly better at certain things than others. At its worst, it inhibits and attempts to replace the instinctual human desire to ‘be all you can be’ with a perverse, fatalistic attitude of hopelessness that implies that as humans, we can’t help it that we’re fallible, there’s nothing we can do to change it, so we should just accept it without judgement and move on.

Today’s liberals like to call this type of feel-good liberalism as “progressive” in nature. Well, sure it is. Only if you enjoy seeing things get progressively worse, which is exactly the opposite of what “progress” is supposed to mean, according to’s top five definitions for the word:

1. a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage: the progress of a student toward a degree.
2. developmental activity in science, technology, etc., esp. with reference to the commercial opportunities created thereby or to the promotion of the material well-being of the public through the goods, techniques, or facilities created.
3. advancement in general.
4. growth or development; continuous improvement: He shows progress in his muscular coordination.
5. the development of an individual or society in a direction considered more beneficial than and superior to the previous level.

Needle-exchange programs, explicit sex ed curriculums in some elementary, and many junior and senior high schools, drunk driving ads around prom time, are all indications of “progressive” thinking? I don’t think so.

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