How to tackle used needles in the Queen City - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How to tackle used needles in the Queen City

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Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, says it threatens every corner of the state: controlling opiate addiction. He dedicated nearly his entire State of the State address to the topic back in January.

Now a side effect of the issue has several members of Burlington's City Council concerned.

"A lot of people in the community probably just don't know the protocol,” said Selene Colburn, P-Burlington City Council.

She’s talking about picking up any needles or syringes, the two things that she says people are now seeing more frequently in public places across the city.

Restrooms at Fletcher Free Library were recently locked and restrooms at the Sailing Center were closed after hypodermic needles and other drug paraphernalia were found clogging the toilets. Those instances have now put figuring out how to handle needle disposal on the council's to-do list. Colburn is leading a study by the city's Public Safety Committee to investigate what can be done to tackle the problem.

Colburn says the city currently has just one trained professional to pick up the needles. That one person services the entire city.

Colburn says the public is at risk of getting stuck with the dirty needles and that most people don't know what to do with the needles when they find them. Some people call the police, but the police chief says that's not the answer.

"As a general matter of practice we don't respond to found needles,” Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling said.

The HowardCenter says folks should call them. The human services agency will dispatch someone qualified to pick up the needles.

Also a new smartphone app called See-Click-Fix is offering the public a high-tech way to report any needles that they find. When someone submits a complaint, the app uses GPS to locate the problem, and the person can even take a photo of the issue.

In the cases where people do not have their smartphone ready, the Vermont Department of Health lists specific steps you can take if you're determined to pick it up yourself. Using a thick plastic complainer, thick gloves, and something like kitchen tongs, a person can safely dispose the needle. The container should then be marked “Do not recycle,” so it is not confused with regular garbage.

Colburn says if finding more people to help with pickup is not the answer, establishing safe public drop-off sites would be a possible option. Other members of the Burlington City Council were quick to note they don't believe this issue has reached the level of a crisis yet, but it's a larger problem that just one person can handle. They're focused on a three-pronged solution-- educating the public, training more people that can respond to complaints and creating public drop-off locations.

Related Stories:

Drug concerns close waterfront bathrooms

Fletcher Free Library installs new locks to keep drugs out

Vt. library bathrooms clogged by drug needles
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