Pubdate: Sat, 28 Mar 2015
Source: Star-News (Wilmington, NC)
Copyright: 2015 Wilmington Morning Star
Author: Cammie Bellamy


WILMINGTON - An object about the size of a AA battery glinted in the
dirt. Susan Stroup turned it over with her tongs, revealing milliliter
markings along the side.

She picked up the broken syringe just a few feet from a jungle gym at
the edge of Robert Strange Park.

"Yep, that's exactly what that is," said Stroup, an N.C. Harm
Reduction Coalition volunteer, as she dropped the syringe into a
biohazard container.

On Saturday, the coalition hosted an event to collect needles
discarded by injection drug users around Wilmington. Volunteers
searched areas including Greenfield Lake Park, parts of Orange and Ann
Streets, and the railroad tracks near 17th Street and Oleander Drive,
finding eight syringes, one crack cocaine pipe and other drug

Tessie Castillo, advocacy and communications coordinator for the
coalition, said the effort was part of a needle-collection pilot
program that the group hopes to launch in areas with injection drug
use problems. She said New Hanover and Brunswick counties have some of
the highest heroin overdose rates in the state.

"As heroin use continues to increase, we're seeing increases in the
number of injection drug users, which means increases in HIV,
hepatitis C and diseases that are costly and potentially fatal," she
said. "So we want to raise awareness about that, and we've also got
the need for safe syringe disposal so that people are not throwing
them away. ... We know that people are discarding them in public
places or out on the ground. They're tossing them out the window of
their car, they're flushing them down the toilet - some very, very
unsafe disposal methods."

Volunteers on Saturday scoured sidewalks, bushes and wooded areas for
drug-related materials. Several of the locations searched were
residential and public spaces, where someone walking or playing could
come into contact with a used needle.

Cheryl Groves has volunteered with the coalition for about a year,
also working in a program that distributes overdose-reversal drug
naloxone to people in Southeastern North Carolina. Groves said some of
the materials collected by volunteers, including several bags used to
package heroin, could be picked up by children. Most of the bags were
stamped with colorful symbols used by drug dealers to distinguish
their product.

"I have a little girl; she's on the playground, she's putting
everything in her mouth," Groves said.

Castillo said the event gave volunteers a good sense of where drug
users are discarding their needles in Wilmington. She said the group
hopes to collaborate with local law enforcement to host regular
cleanup events in the coming months.
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