Drug users have been and are littering our city with used needles, which have been found along sidewalks, in churchyards and playgrounds, in yards, in piles of raked leaves and under porches of homes where children live. Syringes have been found to carry viruses causing AIDS and hepatitis C. Discarded needles pose a significant health hazard to anyone picking them up, because these viruses can still be active for up to six weeks on a used needle.
ACR Health operates a mobile syringe exchange in Syracuse’s Near Westside community. The purpose is to distribute clean needles to drug users and thus prevent the spread of communicable viruses causing AIDS and Hepatitis C.
Not all needles distributed by ACR Health are returned, so some are discarded in the neighborhood. ACR Health, being a leader in this field, realizes this inherent health hazard and has trained personnel to pick up the needles when notified that they are found.
It has been nine months since a five-year-old Westside child was accidentally stuck with a discarded needle. Yet despite our public officials’ awareness of this incident, there has not been any effort to create a public policy to respond to this health hazard.
We, therefore, ask and demand that:
1) A public announcement be issued to create awareness of the dangers of touching used needles.
2) A concrete system be created for the safe disposal of needles and for raising community awareness.
3) Drug users be made aware of the hazard they are creating and be allowed to take responsibility for their actions.
4) ACR Health run a true needle exchange, with a used syringe returned for each new one given, thus alleviating the issue of needle litter.
We find the unbridled distribution of needles to drug users, without adequately addressing the harm it causes the community at large, to be in conflict with our organization’s values and goals for our neighborhood. We believe that the goal of protecting the health of drug users need not conflict with the goal of protecting the safety of our community. We are sure that together we can ensure the safety and health of everyone. We urge you to work with us and to take action.
Residents can visit the petition online here
— Letter submitted by members of the Westside Residents Coalition