By: Zack Duvall
With the heroin and opioid crisis gripping huge portions of the country in a desperate grip of addiction, crime, disease, and death officials are now warning of a new threat that directly impacts the American public, used needles.
So far this year, municipalities across the country have have reported the collection of thousands of used needles from popular and unsuspecting public areas such as playgrounds, baseball fields, and beaches.
Some American cities, like San Francisco, have reported over 13,000 used syringes being collected during the month of March alone.
The problem isn’t just confined to large cities however, smaller,more affluent and less populous, cities are seeing a staggering rise in cases of discarded needles becoming a public safety issue, and real public health concern. Portland, Maine and Manchester, New Hampshire are just two examples of areas, that historically had never even had a widespread drug problem, which are now inundated with big city style, and overwhelming drug usage.
” I just want more awareness that this is happening. You would hear about finding needles at the beach or being poked at the beach. But you think that it wouldn’t happen to you. Sure enough.” Nancy Holmes, the mother of an 11-year girl who stepped on a used needle while vacationing at a beach with her family in Santa Cruz, California told reporters about the ordeal.
The Holmes’ story is just one of numerous around the country that reflect how massive the problem is.
Another case involved a 6-year old child who found a needle while playing at the park in upstate New York and mistook the syringe as a thermometer according to the child’s parents.
The problem has become such a health and environmental threat in many areas, especially areas with water ways, that various community action groups have been established by residents in order to combat the problem in their area. One such organization is the “Clean River Project” ran by Rocky Morrison, that focus on clean up efforts along the Merrimack River in New Hampshire.
“We started seeing it last year here and there. But now it’s just raining needles everywhere we go.” Morrison told a local press conference held in Manchester, New Hampshire. He held up a fish bowl full of used syringes that he said were gathered before the news conference.
With the situation becoming increasingly unstable, and leaders in many cities and districts across the country criticizing what they called “a lack of oversight” by non-profit leaders, many city leaders have opted to take a more hands on approach to the issue and are now directly running needle exchange programs.
Elected leaders in many cities and counties who have taken over the exchange programs have implemented changes they hope will cut down on the needle crisis, by implementing new policies such as requiring addicts to turn in used needles in order to get an equal number of unused syringes.
Other efforts by public officials to curb the startling and dangerous trend include increases in funding for addiction counseling services and the development of new clean-up programs that would focus on areas used for public gatherings and recreation.