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Photo: <a href="">Gary Stevens</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: Gary Stevens, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Massena responds to dirty needle discoveries

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Massena's chief of police, Tim Currier, says he is looking into programs that would encourage safe disposal of used syringes. The syringes are a biohazard; sometimes they transmit diseases like Hepatitis C or HIV.

Last month, Massena police officers responded to 11 calls from people who found used syringes in public: in a park, near a school, and on Main Street.

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Reported by

Zach Hirsch
Reporter and Producer

Currier says he’s pretty sure they were all left behind by people who were shooting up heroin. "There’s very little question in our mind, based on the circumstances," he says. "It’s one or two needles at a time that are being discarded. And the location, where they’re being reported to us—that indicates that these are IV drug users that are discarding them."

Currier has no way of knowing where the syringes came from, but it’s possible they were picked up at a pharmacy, like Kinney Drugs or Walgreens. Through New York’s Expanded Syringe Access Program, or ESAP, anyone who’s 18 or older can buy a clean needle at many pharmacies. The idea is to stop drug users from sharing needles, and to slow down the spread of HIV.

Currier says there’s something missing from the state law. When people go to the pharmacy to get syringes, they just pay at the counter, and that’s that. He says drug users should have to turn in their dirty needles, so the pharmacy can dispose of them safely. "If we’re going to make syringes available to people, then why not take it a step further to help protect the general population, and require drug addicts, IV users, whatever the case may be, that are getting these syringes—when they come to the pharmacy to get new syringes, they have to turn in old ones to get them."

That kind of swap is called a needle exchange. Not-for-profit groups do these exchanges in bigger cities like Buffalo, Albany, and Rochester. Currier says he’s not aware of any needle exchanges in the North Country, and he wants to change that.

"We are going to be talking with our state leaders, our elected officials, so that they understand the scope of the problem that’s going on in these communities, and hopefully they’ll—at my urging—will at least consider taking the next step in keeping our citizens safe," he says.

Currier says he’s working with the Massena Drug Free Coalition, an advocacy group, and they’re still in the research phase. He says he doesn’t know whether it’s realistic to change state laws.

In the meantime, he says, many drug users will keep leaving their syringes around. If you find one, he says you shouldn’t touch it. Currier advises people to report any dirty needles to the police, and wait until the officers arrive.

This story is part of North Country Public Radio's ongoing reporting on heroin in the North Country. Find more stories here.

The Massena Drug Free Coalition is hosting an awareness event on Saturday morning. Volunteers will be sweeping Massena parks for stray syringes. Trained professionals will be there to properly dispose of them. Anyone who would like to participate should meet at the Chamber of Commerce on Church Street at 10 a.m.

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