The Sutter County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance banning needle exchange programs in the county.

The board introduced the ordinance at a special meeting on June 16 and on Tuesday voted to pass the ordinance, which will go into effect in 30 days. The decision came in response to Yuba Sutter Harm Reduction and Community Outreach being approved by the California Department of Public Health to run a syringe services program in Sutter County along with two other sites in Yuba County.

The three sites would focus on dispensing, collecting and disposing syringes as well as tracking syringes that enter the community and providing information about treatment and counseling. Harm reduction kits would be distributed that include syringes, safe injection material and would encourage people to dispose of syringes safely.

During the June 16 meeting, the question of the ordinance's enforceability came up given the state had approved the program.

"It’s my belief that Health and Safety Code Section 121349 (c) gives the state through the State Department of Public Health the authority to authorize needle exchange programs,” County Counsel Jean Jordan said during the June 16 meeting. "So, pursuant to the way our laws work, federal laws prevail, state next, and then local, there is no provision in this section of the Health and Safety Code that would allow the local jurisdiction to legally outlaw the program. So I don’t believe that the ordinance will be enforceable."

The coordinator of the program spoke during Tuesday's meeting prior to the board voting. She asked that the board take part in a town hall meeting being organized to provide more information to the community about the program before making a final decision.

District 4 Supervisor Jim Whiteaker said he would participate in the town hall but said the public's current disapproval of the program meant that he would be voting to pass the ordinance right away.

The YSHRCO program was modeled after a similar program in Plumas County. The program coordinator said implementation will not begin until after the town hall meeting is held. 

Yuba City and Marysville city councils are considering passing similar ordinances. Both bodies will meet on July 7 to discuss the issue.

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