More than 20,000 improperly discarded hypodermic needles retrieved in Boston in one year. That’s a statistic that nobody would wish to have.
The City of Boston Mobile Sharps team picked up at least 20,000 improperly discarded hypodermic needles in 2016. Testifying in a Hearing chaired by City Councilor At-Large Annissa Essaibi-George, the director of AHOPE (Addicts Health Opportunity Prevention Education) Sarah Mackin said that the 20,000 number doesn’t account for the sharps that her team doesn’t get called out to pick up and dispose of.Councilor Essaibi-George added, “The problem is bigger than we realize. We’ve heard about sharps from our neighbors, librarians, teachers, Parks employees and first responders. It’s the City’s responsibility to acknowledge that these people are picking up them up and make sure they have the knowledge to do to it safely.”
Mackey explained that the mobile sharps team has only two people working City-wide to perform scheduled pick-ups from kiosks and respond to 311 notices.
In praising the mobile sharps collection team Hearing co-sponsor Councilor Frank Baker said, “When I first started here, you found a needle and would call the fire department or call EMS.”
Other City department heads shared what they do to combat sharps litter. The Boston Public Health Commission trains some city employees on how to safely dispose of sharps they encounter.
Boston’s Parks Commissioner Christopher Cook thanked BPHC for training Parks employees and said that Parks employees are safer because of it.
Essaibi-George called for expanding the sharps collection team and as well astraining other City employees and members of the public. She expressed confidence that the City can accomplish this and also centralizing its hazardous waste disposal contracts.
The Councilor closed the hearing emphasizing how much work needs to be done. “We’ve picked up 11,000 sharps since August 2016 and just can’t expect two employees to handle this volume. I’m committed to finding solutions to this issue.”
At the next day’s City Council meeting Essaibi-George noted that the City’s budget process was about to begin and invited her colleagues to help create fixes to the problem. “I hope all of you will join me in advocating for additional AHOPE resources to expand the mobile sharps team as well as for more training across the City. I also will push throughout the budget to make sure our city’s hazardous waste management contracts are as cost effective as possible,” she said.
Annissa Essaibi-George grew up in the Polish Triangle neighborhood of Dorchester. She is the daughter of immigrants (her mother is from Poland and her father from Tunisia). She still lives in Dorchester today with her husband Doug their four boys and owns the Stitch House, a yarn and sewing store. Before coming to the Council Annissa was active in her neighborhood and worked as a teacher at East Boston High School, where she also coached girls softball. Councilor Essaibi-George is a Councilor-At- Large and represents the entire City of Boston. She is the Chair of the Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health and Recovery and the Vice Chair of the Committee on Education.
We can but wish those dealing with this situation the very best of luck in their endeavours.