City of Gloucester Responds to Needles Found Discarded on Streets and in Public Places
GLOUCESTER — Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Police Chief Leonard Campanello and Department of Public Works Director Michael Hale seek to inform the public about a number of initiatives being undertaken to diminish the number of discarded hypodermic needles being left in the City of Gloucester.
Gloucester, like virtually every community in the nation, is in the midst of an unprecedented spike in heroin and opioid abuse. Discarded needles are a concern in every city in the Commonwealth, but department heads in Gloucester are committed to not only cleaning up the streets and gathering spots but to also preventing used needles from becoming potentially dangerous litter in the first place.
With the support of Mayor Romeo Theken, the North Shore Health Project will be applying for a waiver from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for the establishment of a Pilot Program for the exchange of needles in the City of Gloucester. This is part of a comprehensive Harm Reduction Program that will include testing, education, Narcan distribution and referral to treatment. Pending DPH approval, the site is scheduled to open in mid-September. An important goal of the program is to reduce the amount of needles discarded on city streets and to reduce the likelihood that dirty needles will be reused by those with substance use disorders. Dirty needles can lead to transmission of disease and a host of other problems for intravenous drug users.
Used syringes and other sharps should always be placed in a sharps container and disposed of safely — either at a drop-off site or in a mail-back program. Do not clip, bend, or recap needles and always keep sharps and containers away from children and pets.
Established drop off sites in the City:
• North Shore Health Project, 5 Center St. Phone: 978-283-0101
• Addison Gilbert Hospital, 298 Washington St., Main Fisher Entrance Phone: 978-283-4000
• Gloucester Police Department, 197 Main St. Phone: 978-283-1212
“Dirty and improperly disposed needles pose a problem for everyone, from users, to tourists, to children who may come across them,” Mayor Romeo Theken said. “Gloucester does not ignore our citizens who have asked for leadership and safety in our community, but the reality is that we’re in the middle of a nationwide heroin epidemic which cannot be ignored, even here. We offer treatment options, we conduct outreach, and we are committed to proper needle disposal as a sanitation and quality of life issue that we must tackle as a community, together.”
In addition to the exchange program, Gloucester Public Works will have crews in the city assigned to clean up any litter from streets, parks, and beaches. Special attention will be paid to the Niles Beach area, where multiple syringes have been spotted in recent weeks.
“Our public works crews, in cooperation with Mayor Romeo Theken’s office, are on the lookout for discarded needles and other litter,” Director Hale said. “This is a quality of life issue for our community, and we are committed to cleaning up and working with the city to raise awareness.”
Gloucester Police will also step up patrols at town parks and beaches to dissuade drug use in public gathering places.
“The rise of heroin and other opioids across the nation has a ripple effect, and discarded needles are another way this crisis affects a community,” Chief Campanello said.
Finally, the City and Police Department have taken great strides with the Gloucester ANGEL Initiative toward addressing addiction from its root causes. Since the program’s inception in June 2015, dozens of used needles have been turned into police by program participants, who are then transported for treatment across Massachusetts and the nation.
The city reminds all residents: If you find a needle on a sidewalk or other public way, do not pick it up, instead please call the Gloucester Police Department non-emergency line at 978-283-1212. Provide the location of the needle with as much detail as possible so that the responding officer can locate the waste.