As the opioid epidemic rises, so does the use of needles and syringes.
The addiction has grown so much, that the New Orleans Health Department began getting phone calls from residents complaining about these sharp objects littering the streets and drains.
“One of us would go out and try to pick them up, but as those calls increased we realized that we needed to identify a pro-active solution to have some way for people to dispose of needles,” says Sarah Babcock, the director of healthy environments.
The city decided to introduce three sharp containers in places where most syringes were being reported.
Many of the areas tended to be near homeless encampments.
“The bins that are out in public right of ways are medal. We tested a number of bins. This is the most secure one we have found,” says Babcock.
Right now, the boxes are near Tulane and Loyola Avenue, Claiborne and Canal, and Simon Bolivar at Calliope.
“These specific containers are really meant to reduce the spread of infectious diseases that come along with the opioid epidemic, and there is a wide array of things that we are doing in addition to these bins,” says Babcock.
In 2017, city council passed an ordinance allowing syringe service programs to operate.
Their mission is to help get hazardous drug needles off the ground and provide clean needles for those struggling with addiction.
The bins that have popped up around the city are just another step in helping fight the war on drugs.
“We’ve moved them around a little bit to see where they would work. So, now that we have a year of data and we’re finding that they are being utilized and now that the community is more open to talking about harm reduction, we feel that this is a good time to start advocating for these particularity before we expand them throughout the city,” says Babcock.