By Angela Peacock
Preventing the spread of blood borne disease has Quay County officials looking into a new disposal option for regular needle users.
People who use injection drugs at home to treat allergies, diabetes or hepatitis C, as a few examples, are often instructed by health care providers to dispose of their dirty needles in empty shampoo or bleach bottles and to label them “biohazardous” before placing them in the trash.
Quay County Public Health Nurse Manager Dee Reed said the problem with that method is there is still a chance someone can get stuck with a needle, since plastic containers aren’t puncture proof.
“It’s really simple. A needle drop box will be placed in a designated area for anyone who has used needles they need to dispose of,” Reed said. “We want to make the drop box convenient to the street so people, especially the elderly, don’t have to get out of their vehicles in the cold and wind instead can simply drive up in their car and drop off the needles.”
Curry County is also in the process of providing a designated needle drop box location for their resident needle users. Gail Jacquez, Curry County public health nurse manager, said her county has already purchased the needle drop box and is simply waiting for liability documentation to be finalized before the new disposal method becomes official.
“Ultimately our goal is to prevent needle injury and the spread of disease for everyone including the sanitation workers, land field operators and law enforcement officials who need a way to safely dispose of used needles,” Jacquez said. “I can’t tell you how many times it has happened, but I do know there has been at least one incident of someone in our county getting stuck by a used needle.”
The state Department of Health has already set up locked, metal drop boxes for the syringes at in Albuquerque’s North Valley, Stanford and South Valley public health offices.
Phillip Fiuty, harm reduction program coordinator for the state health department said disposal services are available to individuals through private companies, but the cost often is high and isn’t covered by insurance.
“People feel a sense of responsibility and have a hard time thinking they should throw these things in the trash,” Fiuty said.