Human Rights Commission discusses needle disposal trial

From left, Humboldt County Human Rights Commissioners Lance Morton, Larry Miller, Richard Leamon, James Glover, Carol Larsen, Lelehnia DuBois and other commissioners (not pictured) discussed a letter drafted in support of setting up needle disposal program in Southern Humboldt County on a trial basis.
From left, Humboldt County Human Rights Commissioners Lance Morton, Larry Miller, Richard Leamon, James Glover, Carol Larsen, Lelehnia DuBois and other commissioners (not pictured) discussed a letter drafted in support of setting up needle disposal program in Southern Humboldt County on a trial basis. Hunter Cresswell — The Times-Standard

The Humboldt County Human Rights Commission on Thursday evening decided to further discuss sending a letter to the county Board of Supervisors in support of setting up needle disposal containers on a trial basis in the Garberville and Redway area.

Nine of the 13 commissioners were present at the meeting at the county courthouse in Eureka.

Commissioner Brandie Wilson recused herself from the syringe container discussion as she is the executive director of the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction, which currently runs a local needle exchange program.

The letter, which commission chairman James Glover read, mentioned the “high prevalence of syringe litter throughout the county” and the reasons needles get improperly discarded.

“The prevalence of syringe litter comes from a vast array of factors, some of the most crucial factors are; lack of access to exchange, lack of medicated assisted treatment, fear of harassment, limited treatment options, and strained resources,” the letter states. “ ... Loose, exposed syringes cause possible health risks and can spread disease including, but not limited to AIDS, Hepatitis B or C, and other health risks. Accidental stick injury to children, pets, community groups, first responders and [law enforcement officers] are potentially life changing and of great concern.”

The commission opted to redraft the letter to go into depth about the problem and suggest other solutions as well, Glover said.

“I’m willing to rewrite a version worked in that way,” he said.

The commission discussed the letter at length during the meeting.

“The ones I have seen in my town are a little larger than a shoebox,” Commissioner Richard Leamon said.

There are other needle exchange programs in the county already, such as the one HACHR runs.

“United Indian Health Services does a needle exchange program that we do through the county and we do have numbers,” Commissioner Carol Larsen about adding relevant figures and data to the final letter.

Commissioner Lelehnia DuBois said citizens who attended a meeting in eastern Humboldt County mentioned they would also like needle drop boxes.

“They said they would like one in Willow Creek,” she said.

“It seems like an obvious place to do a trial,” Glover said about Southern Humboldt. “ ... It could work anywhere.”

And according to the drafted letter, programs like these have worked in other areas.

“Tamper-resistant outdoor syringe disposal boxes are successfully in use throughout many areas of the United States, mostly without significant negative repercussions or issues,” the letter states.

A re-drafted letter will be discussed at the next Human Rights Commission meeting next month.

Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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