ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. - Finding used needles around town is not a new problem for those living in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. But now a local non-profit that also distributes clean needles is working with the public to clean up the used ones.
“It's not a surprising trend here or in the state of Vermont or in the country,” said John Hall, the St. Johnsbury Town Manager.
And as heroin and drug use continues to rise in the state this problem might only get worse.
“The problem isn't a needle problem, it's a drug problem. It's a very big problem and this is a spinoff of it,” said Hall.
Earlier this summer used needles were found in a dugout at Legion Field, and that wasn't the first time. Hall says on an average year the town may find 10 or 20 used needles around town; but he says that's simply too many.
“I worry again about kids anything they see that looks different they tend to want to pick up and look at,” said Hall.
So in an effort to keep used needles out of harm’s way a local non-profit teamed up with town leaders to find a solution.
“We want people to feel safe; we want people to feel their children are safe,” said Theresa Vezina, the Regional Coordinator of Vermont Cares.
Vermont Cares offers a syringe exchange program to provide clean needles for drug users. In the last three months Vezina says about 19 thousand used needles have been brought into the clinic and they've distributed more than 20 thousand.
“Not all the syringes on the ground are from our members though so we are asking them to take part and help our community, help if they see something to just pick it up and bring it back with their next exchange,” said Vezina.
But that's just part of the 'clean-up' effort. Late last week Vermont Cares launched a 24 hour syringe 'clean up' hotline for Caledonia and Orleans counties.
“That was going to be specifically for folks to be able to report found needles they might have found in the streets or in the city park or at the baseball field,” said Vezina.
Vezina or a volunteer will then safely retrieve and dispose of the used needle.
“There's no safe place to throw them away the safest place is to give them back to the dispensary,” said Hall.
The town manager says while there is no simple solution to the drug problem he hopes this hotline will help keep used needles off the streets.
If you see a used needle on the ground, the safest thing to do is leave it there and call the hotline. That number is 802-274-6577. Vezina says if no one answers the phone, you can either leave a message with your contact information, or include the exact location where you saw the needle.