Councilor Hopes to Curb Discarded Needles with Ordinance

By Seth Daniel

The contrast of cascading fountains, well-appointed pathways and relaxing green spaces with playing fields interspersed with the discarded needles of intravenous drug users is a dangerous situation that has played out for too many of Charlestown’s parks and playing fields.

Discarded needles are something that City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George has focused on this year as the chair of the Homelessness, Mental Health and Recovery Committee. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the City Sharps team removed in excess of 20,000 discarded needles from the streets, parks and sidewalks of Boston.

Last week, she filed an ordinance to hopefully help bring those numbers down by requiring that pharmacies who sell needles also act as a return location for them.

“One of the things I learned on my committee is we as a City picked up 20,000 inappropriately discarded syringes in the last year,” she said. “They were in our parks, our neighborhood streets and in open lots. It’s a challenge to deal with that kind of volume…One thing we learned is there are just two dozen sites where people could dispose of sharps, and only nine of those sites are free.”

Her proposal is to make pharmacies in Boston that sell syringes – which she supports – also have to accept returned syringes. Right now, she said there are only nine locations in the City that accept returned syringes for free, and her proposal would bring on 100 locations with one in every neighborhood.

“This would be a 10-fold increase with 100 locations and one in every neighborhood,” she said.

She said California has taken the lead on this idea, with several cities there already instituting the requirement. Baltimore is also looking at such an ordinance.

“We’re not sure what the pharmacies think about this yet, but we’re looking for input and we hope they will partner with us,” she said. “This affects every neighborhood of Boston and touches residents in many different ways. We need (the pharmacies) to partner with us in this work.”

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