Business owners and residents in Chico, California, have filed suit over the California Department of Public Health’s needle access program. In conjunction with the Northern Valley Harm Reduction Coalition, the health department operates a volunteer-based program that provides sterile syringes to IV drug addicts.
Research has shown that access to free syringes prevents addicts from reusing whatever needles they have available, ultimately lowering the risk of diseases like HIV and hepatitis. Many business owners, residents in the area and the local authorities, however, are opposed to the program because they say that it puts them in danger from both increased crime rates and exposure to dirty needles, damages their businesses and lowers the overall quality of life in the area.
Since dirty needles can also damage the environment, the allied companies and residents have taken the tactic of saying that the free-needle program is in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act and local land-use ordinances. Altogether, around 450 businesses and 19 independent operators and citizens are being represented in the suit. The litigants are seeking an injunction to halt the program until the lawsuit is settled.
This lawsuit is similar to ones that have popped up around California over similar issues. Orange County and several California cities have also filed lawsuits over the program.
No business owner likes to be involved in litigation. It’s time-consuming, potentially expensive and distracts from the important tasks that you need to manage every day. However, when something puts your livelihood at risk and threatens to ruin what you’ve worked so hard to build, litigation can be your only solution. When you need advice, turn to an experienced advocate.