Discarded needle safety advice

NASHUA – As the opioid epidemic continues throughout New Hampshire and the rest of the country, police departments all over are responding to calls from people finding syringes in public spaces.

In 2017, according to Lt. Brian Kenney, the Nashua Police Department responded to 173 of those calls, in addition to another 39 in 2018 so far.

Of those calls, he said, many are downtown, in public areas such as parks and the Heritage Rail Trail, where users are secluded away from police and can congregate at night.

However, these are also heavily trafficked areas by the public in the daylight hours, so people often find needles, syringes or “sharps” as they are also known.

Anyone who finds an exposed needle can call the police department if they are unwilling or unable to pick it up, Kenney said, “and we will be happy to help.”

If someone were to dispose of the sharp on his/her own, Kenney said to make sure to do so safely and with a barrier between skin and the needle, such as gloves or a plastic bag.

If there is no official sharps container nearby, a jar or laundry detergent bottle will suffice, but something that can be punctured, such as a plastic bag or a milk carton, should not be used.

The Syringe Service Alliance of the Nashua Area issued a public service announcement suggesting that anyone who finds a sharp in the community assume it has been used and not try to touch or reuse the needle.

Kenney said to never flush sharps down the toilet, place them in the trash or recycle them. Instead, ask a pharmacy, hospital, health care provider or health department how to proceed.

No matter what, Kenney said the goal is to keep the public safe and healthy.

Syringe services, also known as needle or syringe exchange programs, started not only to reduce instances of needle sticking by the public or police officers, but also to protect people struggling with substance use disorder from spreading diseases or infections by sharing syringes.

Currently, Southern New Hampshire Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital have sharp drop off sites. At the medical center, the drop off is located at the emergency department/outpatient entrance and the St. Joseph’s location is behind the information desk in the main lobby.

If one is unable to get to one of the locations, he or she should call 978-743-9636. For more information visit www.safeneedledisposal.org.

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.