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Lompoc residents concerned about needle exchange program

Posted at 6:45 PM, Oct 18, 2018

Many people on social media are sounding off against a needle exchange program in Lompoc after dozens of needles have been found left around town.

While the organization responsible for this outreach says it’s needed to curb viruses like HIV being spread through needles, some question if there’s another way to go about it.

Business owners like Merwyn Pamarang of New Era Sound have been finding needles outside of their Lompoc shops.

“There was a few times where my children were helping me clean the surrounding areas of our parking lot, even the back parking lot, and one of the times they came across a couple of the needles and it was pretty scary,” Pamarang said.

He has now changed the landscaping outside his business to protect people from rogue needles.

“We took it a step further and made sure there was never any tall bushes or weeds growing to make sure myself or any of the employees would get stuck by not being able to see the needles,” he explained.

So where are these needles coming from? Some say they’re from the Pacific Pride Foundation’s needle exchange program that comes into town each week.

“It’s a best practice known throughout the country and the world as a way to help reduce the spread of HIV,” explained Executive Director Colette Schabram.

While some people say the van just gives needles away, the foundation argues it’s a one-for-one system that creates an incentive for keeping the needles.

“So if a client comes with 50 used syringes, we give them 50 new syringes to use for a variety of reasons and we do that service to reduce the spread of HIV and Hep C in our community,” Schabram said.

As far as law enforcement is concerned, they’d like to see people disposing of their needles safely.

“If you have a family member or loved one that is struggling with an addiction problem, we want to see a better program to work them off those drugs. I don’t know that handing out needles is the answer, that’s not for me to decide, but if you are doing that and you’re disposing of needles inappropriately, that creates additional dangers,” Sgt. Kevin Martin of the Lompoc Police Department said.

Pacific Pride Foundation disposes of more than 200,000 used needles in Santa Barbara County each year.