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Needle cleanup kits available to public

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Before picking up used heroin needles, you may consider picking up a needle safety kit.
One thousand needle collection kits will be available for free from the Snohomish Health District starting this week.
The needle kit contains tongs, a sharps container, puncture-proof gloves, hand sanitizer, safety glasses and related materials for picking up needles.
In addition, the health district launched a new opioid resource website at www.snohomishoverdoseprevention.com that lists area treatment centers, shows how to make a needle safety kit at home, and keeps people apprised of the county’s opioid epidemic. The portal website also gives safety advice to drug users to help lower their overdose risks and seek assistance.
With the kits, people return the used needles to the health district for destruction. Everything in the starter kit except the sharps container is reusable.
The health district will track the returns to assess the program. If the program clicks with the public, more kits would be ordered.
Everett’s public health and safety director Hil Kaman said having the public out picking up needles
is not ideal — police officers are usually called to retrieve needles — but it helps to equip people to be able to do so safely.
“Between law enforcement and ourselves, we just don’t have the bandwidth” to pick up every needle, health district spokes-woman Heather Thomas said.
“We understand this is not a great solution ... but a lot of people are willing to help” with cleaning up needles, Kaman said.
Currently, a band of people cleans Snohomish’s Interurban Trail. A coach spends each morning cleaning the field at Sequoia High School. A group of moms traverse Everett sweeping needles and debris out of neighborhoods. A nonprofit group has public events that convenes people to clean the riverbanks. In theory, all could use the kits.
While the risk of contracting a disease from a needle-stick injury is minimal, safe handling methods prevent further risk, the health district advises.
The needle kits could be seen as another tool in combatting Snohomish County’s opioid crisis. 
A nasal spray that blocks and reverses a heroin overdose became publicly available at pharmacies last year. The take-home kits of the naloxone spray sell for about $90 to $130 out of pocket. They are sprayed up the nostril of someone having an overdose.
Police officers and EMTs generally carry naloxone. The Everett Police Department used naloxone on its 51st person last week, Police Chief Dan Templeman said. Hundreds of overdoses have been averted using the naloxone spray.
Earlier this summer, the health district developed a wide medicine take-back program to dispose of pills at police stations and many pharmacies. Information on the take-back box locations
are on www.snohomish
overdoseprevention.com
There is a needle exchange program, called The AIDS Outreach Project and Snohomish County Syringe Exchange, where each needle exchange participant is given naloxone. The exchange is one-for-one, where people must bring dirty needles to get clean needles.
“If the group wasn’t in existence, the needle (litter) problem would be much worse,” Thomas said.
The needle kits are available at the Snohomish Health District, 3020 Rucker Ave. in Everett. Thomas said the health district is also looking for additional distribution points.

 

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