I am writing in response to “Sharp Objects: Syringe Disposal Units Are a ‘Balancing Act’” in the April 13 edition [Xpress]. Here’s how I see things. The Needle Exchange Program of Asheville was created in 1994 in response to the needles found all over the streets and sidewalks of Asheville at that time, so it is not a new phenomenon in 2022. It was nearly 25 years later that the state legalized harm-reduction programs.
People use needles for injecting drugs, steroids, vitamins, insulin, hormones and even vaccinations. However, I have never seen a nurse in a medical facility lack the appropriate sharps container in which to dispose of a used needle or syringe. Why aren’t there more locations in which to dispose of them outside of medical facilities? I advocate that all 85 county health department locations in North Carolina not only be a location for free needle and syringe disposal, but also that each be a location for syringe service programs (i.e., needle exchanges).
I also advocate that all pharmacies — please hear me, N.C. Board of Pharmacy and N.C. Association of Pharmacists — be involved in the easy disposal of sharps, at least for needles and syringes, and be more friendly about accessibility to needles for no matter what purpose they may be utilized.
Last, I would like that grocery stores, particularly ones with pharmacies, be locations for easy disposal of needles and syringes. After all, we are now accustomed to bringing our plastic bags in for recycling. Let’s make it customary to drop our needles in the appropriate containers on the way in to shop and really make a change, with no fear of legal ramifications for the possession of needles.
Changing public health behaviors is a slow process, from my point of view. But we must persist and make the effort, and share Asheville love.
Peace and health,
— Michael Harney