It’s a tragedy that heroin addiction destroys so many lives in Seattle. Discarded needles add another sad layer to the problem. A push from Seattle Public Utilities started in February 2016 can’t help with the addiction but officials say it is helping make streets safer by collecting some 2,000 used needles a month:
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.
Officials say the one-of-a-kind Seattle program is part of a group of test initiatives related to clean streets and safety.
While heroin and drug addiction problems are readily apparent across Capitol Hill’s streets, business fronts, and public spaces, the area was far behind other neighborhoods under the city program in terms of complaints per census block. The closest drop box to Capitol Hill in the program, meanwhile, is located in Freeway Park. Many area businesses also offer safe needle disposal boxes in their bathroom facilities.
The city report on the needle collection program comes as Capitol Hill landowners and the business community are considering a push to expand a Business Improvement Area from Broadway to the entirety of the Hill. The current BIA spends a bulk of its budget on clean streets programs. In 2017, the area’s contractors reported removing some 415 discarded needles, according to the BIA.
“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.” Lisa Herbold, chair of the City Council’s Rights, Utilities, Economic Development & Arts Committee, said in a Tuesday announcement about the needle program’s progress. “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.
Meanwhile, the county and City Hall continue to push forward with plans for safe consumption sites as officials work out the significant challenge of where best to site the facilities.
You can learn more about the Sharps program here including handling and disposal instructions.