Police say North Country needle exchange program working

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) Syringe exchange programs allow drug users to safely dispose of used and potentially dangerous hypodermic needles. Our Kelly O'Brien looked into the numbers in the North Country.

"It's a surprising number but it's in line with what we are seeing," Plattsburgh City Police Capt. Brad Kiroy said.

The Syringe Exchange Program began in June 2015. The main purpose is to allow addicts to safely take their drugs.

"Our goal is to prevent hep C and HIV, as well as to prevent abscesses that come from using needles over and over again," said Diana Aguglia of the Alliance for Positive Health. "Not only do we not want you sharing needles but we don't want you to reuse your own needles."

In its three years, the program has expanded to six counties in the North Country and help 460 clients daily.

"They are very proud because they feel they are helping to reduce the stigma and helping to keep the playgrounds and public areas free of discarded needles," Aguglia said.

They've retrieved a lot of needles in 2018.

"I did get the numbers from the Alliance for Positive Health and it was 181,684... which that's a lot," Kiroy said.

And almost 900,000 have been collected since the start of the program in 2015.

"It is working. We collect a tremendous amount of needles from people turning them into collecting them when we go somewhere and discover a bunch of discarded needles we collect a lot," Kiroy said.

So are these numbers uncommon?

"That's par for the course," Aguglia said. "If you compare our numbers with other exchange programs around New York our numbers are pretty comparable."

Police say even with the exchange program and kiosks, they still receive daily drug-related calls.

"Those calls are on the increase. There are many of those calls but when we can add a safer way to do something, especially for people to dispose of needles, that prevents other people from being in contact with that stuff. It's certainly going to work, it's certainly going to help," Kiroy said.

The Alliance for Positive Health says about 99.5 percent of the needles they hand out are returned.

"What you're doing right now is harm reduction and you should be proud of yourself that you are actually taking this step toward being healthier and staying healthier," Aguglia said.

The Alliance for Positive Health reminds people not to pick up discarded needles. Call them or Plattsburgh City Police and they will send out a trained staff member to properly handle that needle.