Barre needle disposal boxes making a difference

Published: Oct. 24, 2018 at 7:41 AM EDT
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Barre city officials say they're not picking up as many dirty needles on the streets as they used to. It's all because of a needle disposal site that is helping clean up the community.

The Greater Barre Safe Sharps Alliance launched the pilot program to address the growing concern many Barre residents had of finding needles on the streets, in playgrounds and public parks.

In fact, in the six months the program has been around, officials say they have collected about 190 gallons of sharps which equals upward of 100,000 needles. That's an average of 500 needles a day.

Although it's shocking to Barre Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Aldsworth, he says he's noticed a dramatic decrease in calls of people reporting needles on the streets.

"I'm quite glad because it's being utilized. It is a little shocking to see that type of numbers," Aldsworth said.

There are 17 disposal units in and around Barre. When the project first started, there were concerns of vandalism, unwelcome activities and children getting into the boxes.

"All of those concerns are unfounded, there has been no vandalism of any of the units we have put out," said Joan Marie Misek with the Vermont Department of Health.

Misek says the boxes play a part in helping to de-stigmatize drug use, but not all these needles are tied to illicit drugs.

"We have lots of people managing chronic diseases such as diabetes or MS, or for their pets, and we need to have a range of options for them to properly dispose," Misek said.

They also have green boxes next to the SHARPS containers for prescription medications.

The program has been so successful in Barre that a statewide task force has been created to help implement safe disposals sites in other communities.