Richmond needle drop box program deemed a success

Needle boxes are up in the town of Richmond to keep the streets clean and people safe.
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 8:48 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Vt. (WCAX) - Needle boxes are up in the town of Richmond to keep the streets clean and people safe.

It’s been around for five years and medics say three boxes collect dozens of pounds of needles monthly.

The SHARPS boxes are at the town offices, the Casella Waste drop-off and the Richmond Rescue station.

Richmond Rescue medic Robert Wright says it’s been a huge success.

“Absolutely. Whatever will help people deal with these issues,” he said.

“I think it’s wonderful that we are finding success with it. It’s a great opportunity for the community,” added medic Elise O’Neill.

Richmond residents say they are also pleased the town’s needle disposal sites are being put to use.

“Very full, almost to the top in most cases. A lot of them are full of medication injectors, that’s primarily what we are finding in there,” said Alex Knakal, a paramedic with Richmond Rescue.

EpiPens, migraine medication injectors or insulin injectors are the primary needles being disposed of in the containers.

Knakal says that when people receive medication, disposal often isn’t top of mind, so convenience was the goal.

“Having this as a free and easy disposal method for residents in town, makes it much safer for other residents or those processing the waste sort of down the road,” said Knakal.

He says last month alone they filled five, five-gallon buckets, an estimated 60 pounds of needles.

Back when the containers first went up, there was some community pushback that the location of the boxes would become safe injection sites.

“Ultimately, that just wasn’t the case, and they have been used properly and many needles disposed and overall a great success,” said Knakal.

He says if it works in Richmond, he hopes that will serve as an incentive for other communities to follow suit.

“I think this would be a great program in all towns,” Knakal said. “There has been some pushback about it being thought of as a designated injection area for illicit use, but we haven’t seen that as the case. I think one container in an easily accessible space in each town or different municipalities, that way it is a free and easy disposal method for residents of that town.”

Wright says he’s proud his town is trying to help, because spreading resources far and wide is important, regardless of someone’s intent for use.

“It’s critical to our town and our state and our culture. We have to help people get through these transitions,” he said.

Richmond Rescue officials say people can dispose of needles at home as well, they just need to go in a plastic container like a milk jug. They also recommend labeling the container.

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