On Thursday, April 25, City Councilor At-Large Annissa Essaibi-George, the Chair of the Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health, and Recovery and the Committee on Education, is organizing the first ever, city-wide Needle Take Back initiative in Boston. The partners and sponsors of Needle Take Back Day include the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, Boston University School of Public Health Activist Lab, the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services, the Boston Public Health Commission, and the Grayken Center for Addiction at the Boston Medical Center.
With only thirteen permanent locations that offer safe needle disposal, Boston lacks sufficient collection sites to meet the volume of disposal needs for used sharps. In addition to the residents that use syringes legally for medical purposes, the rising opioid crisis in Boston increases the necessity of expanding access to safe and free needle disposal.
One of the worst side effects of the growing opioid epidemic is the significant increase of sharps litter in parks, playgrounds, and other public spaces, creating a critical public safety threat. As demonstrated by recent incidents of needle exposure in playgrounds, this threat poses an additional risk for children and has prompted the placement of Sharps Kiosks’ in Clifford Parks and Orchard Gardens, both in close proximity to schools, as party of the City’s response to reduce improperly discarded needles. With the Mobile Sharps Team collecting upwards of 20,000 needles every year, the growing volume of used sharps creates an urgent need to increase the locations for safe needle disposal.
“As a mother of four and a former teacher of BPS for 13 years, preventing any opportunity for another child to get pricked by a needle in their school playground is my top priority, especially as the Chair of Homelessness, Mental Health and Recovery and Chair of Education,” said Councilor Essaibi-George. “When it comes to needle collection, we need to make it much easier, and much more available. By doubling the number of safe drop-off sites on Needle Take Back Day, we are bringing this service to people rather than requiring people to travel to a small number of sites.”
Needle Take Back Day is part of the Councilor Essaibi-George’s ongoing efforts to promote proper disposal and expand the number of safe collection sites in the City of Boston. Since arriving on the City Council, Councilor Essaibi-George has been a vocal supporter of the Mobile Sharps Team, from riding along with them to successfully advocating for funding that doubled the capacity of their team during her first term in office. In 2017, the Councilor filed a Sharps Ordinance that will require pharmacies to provide sharps take back, educate consumers about safe needle disposal, share their information on their inventory of sharps with the City, and direct revenue from fines to the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services.
“I filed the Sharps Ordinance because public safety is my priority as a City Councilor and expanding the number of collection sites is essential to preventing improperly discarded sharps,” said Councilor Essaibi-George. “Given that pharmacies distribute and profit from the sale of needles, it makes sense that they also provide safe collection. The Sharps Ordinance will result in over 100 collection locations and at least one in each City neighborhood. As I continue my work to implement the Ordinance, Needle Take Back Day is a step in the right direction to raise awareness about the importance of safe collection sites and keep needles out of household trash.”
On Monday, the Councilor filed a Resolution to recognize April 25th as Needle Take Back Day in City of Boston. On Thursday, 18 community health centers throughout the city will offer temporary collection hours from 10AM-5PM for safe needle disposal. The addresses of the participating health centers can be found by visiting, Boston.Gov/NTBD2019.
Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George Chairs the Council’s Committee on Education and the Council’s Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health and Recovery. She was elected to the Boston City Council as in At Large Member in 2015.