Syringe Services Programs in California
Syringe services programs have been operating in California, providing sterile syringes, collecting used ones, and acting as points of access to health education and care for people who inject drugs since the late 1980s. SSPs are a critical part of efforts to protect and improve the health of all Californians, and are one of the cornerstones of OA's efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of people who use drugs.
for Syringe Exchange Programs Funded by the California Department of Public Health (April 2020) (PDF) outline the minimum requirements for California SSPs to be funded with OA funds or receive materials through the California Harm Reduction Supply Clearinghouse. The Guidelines also provide information on legal requirements associated with SSP operations in California state statute and ancillary information such as the Framework for Injection Drug User (IDU) Health and Wellness (Appendix D) to assist local health jurisdictions and SSPs in understanding the environment in which they work, and the ways in which they can do their best work.
Syringe Access Policies for California Syringe Exchange Programs (July 2017) (PDF) summarizes scientific evidence on good practice for syringe distribution, and recommends that California syringe exchange programs adopt needs-based distribution policies with the goal of ensuring that program participants have a new, sterile syringe and other injection equipment for each injection. The Issue Brief recommends against restrictive syringe access policies such as variations on one-for-one exchange, which are not supported by public health evidence and may impose harm upon SSP participants.
Smoking Supplies for Harm Reduction (September 2020) (PDF) summarizes amended state law that allows people to obtain and possess safer smoking materials, including pipes, from any authorized SSP in California. CDPH/Office of AIDS has determined that safer smoking materials, provided in a harm reduction context alongside health education and other care, may help individuals avoid initiation of injection drug use, and may allow people who inject drugs to transition from injection to safer modes of administration. This Issue Brief summarizes the public health research and encourages SSPs to provide safer smoking supplies and education to program participants.
Syringe Services Program Authorization
In July 2013, CDPH/Office of AIDS established the Syringe Services Authorization Program, which allows qualified entities to apply directly to CDPH/OA for authorization to provide syringe exchange services. This option allows providers to seek either local authorization from their city council or county board of supervisors, or state authorization through CDPH/OA.
The Syringe Services Authorization Program does not provide funding to applicants, however all authorized SSPs are eligible to participate in the California Harm Reduction Supply Clearinghouse, which provides a baseline level of supplies to authorized programs.
OA offers free technical assistance for programs interested in pursuing state authorization and learning more about the Clearinghouse. For further information contact CDPH/Office of AIDS at 916-449-5900 or
For more information see:
Fact Sheet - Syringe Services Authorization Program (PDF)
State Authorized Syringe Services Programs & Applications Open for Public Comment.
Applications open for public comment and list of State-Certified SSPs
Harm Reduction Resources
Links to resources for hepatitis C, HIV, and overdose data and training
The Risks of the Job: Protecting Law Enforcement from Needle Stick Injuries (Video) - Made in cooperation with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), this educational documentary explains how officers can reduce the risk of infection by needle stick injuries on the job. LAPD officers visit an SSP on their beat and explore the way that SSPs can help keep law enforcement officers and their communities safer.
Changing the Narrative – This project of Northeastern University School of Law provides a language guide, expert directory and other resources for journalists covering issues related to drug use, overdose, and harm reduction.
Why partner with harm reduction programs? - This video from the National Overdose Prevention Network describes the role that harm reduction programs play in reducing harms associated with substance use disorder and the War on Drugs, and how they can make a difference when health care interventions alone are not enough.