In 2017, the Deputy Fire Chief for the City of Barre, Joseph Aldsworth, grew concerned with finding increasing numbers of sharps around the community - in parks, playgrounds, and public restrooms. Joe’s fellow first responders, EMT and law enforcement officers, were collecting an increasing number of sharps, both around the community and on the persons with whom they were coming in contact. Local landlords were finding bags of sharps left behind in apartments from vacated tenants. To Joe, it seemed as if “syringes were the new soda cans when it came to litter.”
Uncomfortable with dumping the syringes into the trash, Joe resorted to collecting the sharps in a five-gallon tub that sat on top of the drug takeback collection box at the Public Safety building. Eventually, the tub filled up. Joe was able to connect with the local hospital, Central Vermont Medical Center, to help him dispose of and incinerate the sharps. However, calls to Public Safety from community members wondering what to do with found sharps increased and the tub continued to fill. It was clear something more needed to be done to address the issue of improperly disposed of needles in and around the city.
Without resources to tackle the issue on his own, Joe reached out to several organizations he thought could help: Vermont CARES, which operated a Syringe Exchange Program in Barre; the Vermont Department of Health Barre District Office of Local Health; and Central Vermont Medical Center. From there, as awareness of the need to address this issue grew, more organizations joined to create what is now the Greater Barre Safe Sharps Disposal Alliance. Together, the Alliance assessed the issue, came to a consensus that improperly disposed of sharps were a community-wide problem, and agreed that a collaborative effort was needed to address the problem. It gathered information on what was known about the issue, shared the information, and created an action plan. With support from the Vermont Department of Health to implement a pilot project, the Alliance designed a community education and outreach campaign and purchased large sharps collection kiosks and wall units that were installed in and around the city. These efforts lead to Vermont’s first major community-wide effort to create multiple options for safe sharps disposal and raise public awareness about these options free of stigma.
For more information about the project, contact the Barre Office of Local Health at 802-479-4200 or AHS.VDHOLHBarre@vermont.gov.
- 105.5 gallons of sharps have been collected since the first units were installed in April 2018.
- In the first quarter of the project - prior to the drop box installations - there were 12 reports of improperly disposed of sharps. During the second quarter - after the drop box installations - there were zero reports regarding improperly disposed sharps.
- The Barre Syringe Exchange Program experienced a 13% increase in membership (the drop boxes have advertisements for the Syringe Exchange Program).
- Seeing the benefits of hosting a drop box, two community organizations purchased their own units.