Each year approximately 9 million sharps users will administer at least 3 billion injections outside the purview of a healthcare professional. Most likely they will be disposed of in public areas such as a restroom, airplane, hotel room or on the street.
Used needles and other sharps are a health and safety hazard to people and pets because of the risk of injury and the risk of spreading infections, viruses and disease that cause serious health conditions such as Hepatitis B & C, and HIV.
Porter County is no different when it comes to improper disposal of used needles. “Porter County Substance Abuse Council’s Prevention and Treatment Committee was tasked with collecting data and mapping incidences around the county and found that needles were improperly disposed of and needlestick injuries were reported as well as increasing the risk of communicable diseases, said Dawn Pelc, Executive Director.” Partnering agency, Hebron Police Department’s Chief Joshua Noel has taken a lead on the proper disposal of used syringes as officers are finding them discarded in locations of opportunity. “The dangers created by the unsafe disposal of hypodermic needles is one that can affect us all,” said Chief Noel.
“As the committee was trying to formulate a plan for the disposal of the sharps, I reached out to the community hospital and was told that they were unable to dispose of because of budgetary restraints,” said Chief Joshua Noel. “Much like the unwanted prescription drug problem, law enforcement agencies are finding that they are being forced to deal with these issues on a much greater basis. Hypodermic needles have now become a community problem that will take a community-wide response to deal with,” added Noel. The discarded syringes are many times from individuals using them in a legitimate manner. A population of home self-injectors diagnosed with diabetes or another chronic non-communicable disease using needles on a daily basis routinely dispose of their used syringe in the garbage, leaving an opportunity for drug users to obtain them for re-use.
Needle disposal is not regulated in Indiana and safe disposal methods are haphazard leaving the community at risk of increased exposure to possibly infected needles.
Victims of a needle stick are treated as if the injury is infected with a disease and will most likely opt to seek treatment at a health care facility to ensure their safety. “It is the intention of substance abuse council to reduce the public health risk of Hep B, Hep C, HIV/AIDS, Tetanus and Syphilis contracted by way of sharing used needles,” said Director Pelc. A simple vaccine can protect you from these diseases and is available from the county health department. Porter County Health Department offers vaccines for Hep A & C at a nominal cost.
Due to the spotty guidelines offered by the state, it is unclear on how to dispose of this refuse and syringes often times fall into the hands of those injecting illicit drugs. “To be clear, this is NOT a syringe exchange program, but a collection for proper disposal program,” said Council President Chuck Harris. “As of now, there are very few guidelines governing the proper disposal of use syringes. “Most people, simply are unsure of how to dispose of the needles so the Council has taken proactive steps to streamline the process and develop a community model,” continued Harris.
According to the Center of Disease Control, it is prudent for communities to adopt harm reduction strategies to reduce community outbreaks of infectious diseases. It is noted that only 1/3 of those injecting use syringes from sterile sources with the rest obtaining needles from street sources, many by way of improper disposal.
“The Council is offering convenient locations throughout the county for safe disposal at no cost. We are pairing with Porter County police departments that have agreed to participate in this program by installing a sharps container alongside the prescription drop box in their lobby. See list on this page for participating police departments.
Participating Police Departments
The hospitality industry has been cited as a hotspot for found needles so the Council is offering 5-Quart locked collection cabinets for this sector to be installed in a secure location on hotel property for housekeeping and maintenance staff in an effort to reduce needle sticks.
Porter County businesses that are interested in installing a collection box on premises for needle disposal for their guests are invited to contact the Council. There is no fee for this service. Contact Carley at firstname.lastname@example.org