32,000+ syringes/needles in first 15 months of city program that includes 2 West Seattle dropboxes

The city’s out with a progress report on its efforts to handle discarded needles/syringes, which is a two-part program that includes dropboxes placed earlier this year in locations including West Seattle’s Roxhill Park and Westcrest Park, as well as cleanups in response to complaints. First, Seattle Public Utilities shared this map of where it’s received the most requests/complaints:

This news release from SPU explains not just the stats but also that they’re surveying people in multiple ways to decide how to improve the program:

In its first 15 months of operation, Seattle Public Utility’s pioneering Sharps Collection Pilot Program has collected and safely disposed of 32,012 hypodermic syringes, improving both the safety and cleanliness of the city’s neighborhoods.

Since February, people disposed of 26,647 syringes in nine SPU sharps disposal boxes around Seattle. (See attached map.) Another 5,365 needles have been removed from public property since the program began, in August 2016, in response to 1,113 complaints. Complaints were filed online, with the City’s Find It, Fix It app, or phoned in to 206-684-7587.

It is believed Seattle is the first U.S. city to combine syringe complaint response and disposal boxes as a standalone sharps program.

“Last year I worked with SPU to add funding to develop three pilot programs to address the increase in need to keep streets clean and safe; the ‘sharps’ pilot program was one of them.” said Lisa Herbold, who chairs City Council’s Rights, Utilities, Economic Development & Arts Committee.

“There is still much work to do and many people yet to connect with treatment. We must keep our focus to successfully address the needs of those that most need our help,” Herbold said.

SPU’s Idris Beauregard, who leads the needle collection pilot, credited the program’s initial successes to listening to and working with local communities.

“The department surveyed users of the City’s Find It, Fix It app to get a better understanding of where needles are most often found,” Beauregard said. “We asked about the effectiveness of sharps disposal boxes, what information platforms customers use most often, and whether customers have observed a reduction in the number of needles and feel safer as a result of the program.”

One of the things that particularly caught his attention, Beauregard said, was customers reporting needles found near schools and playgrounds — places where families spend their down time. “With me, being a father of two children, that’s where it really hit home,” Beauregard said. “This is not just a drug problem, it’s a community problem.”

For Beauregard, ensuring the needle collection services benefit the entire Seattle community is an important focus of the program.

“If our goal is to create and maintain a safe, livable community for everyone, it’s our duty to engage harder-to reach-populations,” he said.

Sharps program materials were translated into Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese to better serve the most diverse Seattle neighborhoods. Additionally, SPU did not assume everyone has access to a computer or the ability to navigate an online survey written in English — so the department recently sent out 29,000 mail-in surveys with prepaid postage to residents living in close proximity to one of the syringe disposal boxes.

Seattle’s Sharps Collection Pilot Program also provides training and education to other City departments, community groups, business improvement associations, and Seattle Public Schools. One example was a workshop SPU held at Casa Latina, an organization that works on behalf of Latina and Latino immigrants.

“We had over 50 people show up, a number of whom are landscapers and are at higher risk to syringe exposure than the general population, given the nature of their work,” Beauregard said. “This is a population that may not feel the greatest comfort level with government, so we wanted to hold the workshop in a safe space, led in Spanish by a trusted member of the community, to empower those in attendance to ask questions about what to do when a needle is discovered.”

Beauregard said that, because the pilot program has only been in operation for 15 months, there is insufficient data at this point to say whether the large number of syringes collected correlates to an increase in drug usage around the city. The pilot is budgeted through December 2018.

Future plans for the sharps program include an informative video for businesses and community organizations on general sharp disposal information, and mail-in surveys to the communities that currently house the sharps disposal boxes.

14 Replies to "32,000+ syringes/needles in first 15 months of city program that includes 2 West Seattle dropboxes"

  • Concerned October 24, 2017 (11:40 am)

    32,000 needles. I don’t know whether to call that either a functional success or a social failure

    • Tom October 27, 2017 (9:05 pm)

        My nephew died two months ago from a Heroin

      overdose. I wonder if he got clean needles from them? If so he at least didn’t die from a dirty needle.

      • WSB October 27, 2017 (9:50 pm)

        I am sorry about your nephew. Way too much of that kind of dying going on.

  • JoB October 24, 2017 (1:12 pm)

    32,000 needles.. that should give us some idea of the size of the problem we face..

    now that everyone’s heads should be out of the sand.. .. wishing and hoping and demanding isn’t going to make this go away.

    now we can address the problem of needles that need to be picked up out of our public spaces ?

    i bet you didn’t know that safe disposal is even an issue for those whose use of daily needles for medication is legal…..

    safe use centers and safe disposal makes a huge difference..

    in our lives as well.

  • DRG October 24, 2017 (3:16 pm)

    Glad that the disposal boxes are there. I wish illegal drugs weren’t such a problem, but at least this helps keep some portion of the needles contained. And as mentioned above there are also those with medical issues who need to dispose of needles from medications. I may make use of one of the disposal boxes myself, to dispose of needles from pet meds.

  • Swede. October 24, 2017 (5:14 pm)

    The needles are only a small part of it since not all opiods users shoot up heroin, prescription drugs are a much bigger part of the problem…

  • flimflam October 24, 2017 (5:19 pm)

    how lovely.

  • TJ October 24, 2017 (7:31 pm)

    Yep, we need to accomodate those who have made poor choices in life. You know, they can’t clean up after themselves so we have to help them. And to be even more progressive, lets provide a safe supervised location to shoot up. Somebody let Hollywood know that the next time they film a zombie movie just come to one of these safe injection sites to save on auditioning anyone. 

  • Wsres October 24, 2017 (9:38 pm)

    A nice little map that shows where the concentration of drug users reside. 

  • Mark October 24, 2017 (10:44 pm)

    2 million could be spent elsewhere, no one is holding a gun to these peoples heads.  Bad choices! 

    This money could be used to purchase food for the hungry, pay for more transit service amongst many other demands.

  • AG October 25, 2017 (11:06 am)

    Has it even crossed the minds of anyone commenting snark about needles that many of these are coming from people like me with chronic health conditions for which we inject medication? Many, MANY of us have to self-inject for various issues. Someone with diabetes may have multiple needles a day. I have a weekly injection and between a needle to draw and a needle to inject, I produce a ton of needles. There are some ways to put them in the garbage, but I’m not a jerk and don’t want my garbage collector getting stuck. Or anyone else. So I collect them in a milk jug and take them to a drop off when they happen. Not everyone who is disposing of needles is an addict. And those who are? Jeez, if you’ve ever been stuck and had to go through preventive treatment for hiv or hepatitis, you’d be THRILLED that there are safe places to dispose of needles. 

    That said, I’d wager that most addicts aren’t saving up needles to drop off at a safe drop. 

    Dont be so quick to judge everything and everyone not like you. Sometimes there are a lot more reasonable explanations than the conclusions you’re jumping to. Ffs. 

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