KIOSKS FOR A SAFER COMMUNITY — Hamburg is home to the 13th dual kiosk of the Expanded Syringe Access Program, which is funded through a grant administered by the Erie County Department of Health. That kiosk is located at the town of Hamburg Police Station, located at 6100 S. Park Ave. in Hamburg.
HAMBURG — The Erie County Department of Health began the Expanded Syringe Access Program in 2000, to avoid letting leftover medication gather in cupboards, or allowing syringes and needles to be disposed of unsafely.
Hamburg is now home to the 13th dual kiosk, which is funded through a grant administered by the ECDOH and located in the lobby of the town of Hamburg Police Station.
“This is a great opportunity to help people with risky behavior,” Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “This is a non-judgmental public health intervention. People may be using needles for various reasons We want to promote safety, to dispose of them safely.”
“You don’t want to keep these things in your house,” said Cheryll Moore, the medical care administrator for the ECDOH who spearheaded this project.
The Hamburg kiosk provides two spots in which to expose of medical waste, whether it be prescription drugs that are not needed or have expired, or for needles and other sharps.
Covanta Energy Corporation will collect and burn the medication, while also recycling that energy. Stericycle© Medical Waste Management hauls and disposes of the needles and sharps.
There are many reasons why these items should be disposed of properly, according to Moore. “Opiates are a really hot item right now,” she said, adding that keeping medications stocked and unused could encourage and enable pharmaceutical drug abuse in the home. In addition, Moore said there have also been cases of “accidental poisonings,” due to using old medication.
Whether needles are used for diabetes, other medical needs or illicit drug use, Moore said that people “have to dispose of these things somehow.
“People really shouldn’t flush these things, or put them in the garbage, because they’re eventually going to get into your water,” she added, saying that this type of kiosk allows for proper disposal.
Moore said that, since the kiosk is a “subtle” anonymous drop-off site, it is encouraged by the ECDOH to be utilized by needle users of both legal and illegal drugs. She said that this will help keep the community safer, by keeping dirty needles off the streets, community beaches, abandoned houses, playgrounds and more.
Needles cannot be thrown in the garbage, because that act could put garbage collectors in danger of being poked by a used sharp, Moore said, adding that she has heard stories about people burying needles in their backyard, putting them in bathrooms and pharmacies, throwing them out of car windows or even flushing them down the toilet.
“People try to do the right thing,” she said.
Moore said that the mission of this endeavor is to “keep everybody safe,” while also being environmentally friendly.
“Through our surveillance activities and other harm reduction activities, we’re aware that Hamburg is an area with a high need for these services,” Burstein said. Moore said that information gathered from overdose reports, police reports and the disease process at the health department detailed a cluster of Hepatitis C that began in the Hamburg area, in 2007.
She reported that Hamburg is not the only suburban area that has a problem with illicit substance abuse; the Southtowns area “does have a significant problem.”
“Addiction is a disease. It’s not because they feel like doing it. What these people are doing is to try and feel like you and me,” Moore said. “We want them to be healthy, until they’re ready to address their disease and addiction.”
Moore said that “people will do the right thing, if given the opportunity.”
Other ESAP kiosk locations may be found throughout eight counties of Western New York. A full listing of locations and more information about the program may be found on the department’s website, www2.erie.gov/health/index.php?q=needle-disposal-amp-access.
The town of Hamburg Police station kiosk is located at 6100 S. Park Ave. in Hamburg.