Letter to the Community: What to do when you come across discarded needles
By Norma Reppucci
Accidental needlesticks is a serious issue in the North End and the city of Boston, especially when it happens to a child. Children are particularly vulnerable to being stuck with needles, in part due to the prevalence of used needles being left or discarded in North End parks and other public spaces. When this does happen, it’s important that the injury is treated immediately, and that assessment, counseling, and follow-ups are provided.
Parents, educators, and community health care workers should be made aware if there are discarded needles. Needles should only be picked up by professionals; discarded needles can be reported by dialing 311 in Boston. You can also notify 311 by downloading their app, or by tweeting the location to @BOS311.
Children should be taught not to handle needles or syringes, and to report finding them to trusted adults, such as parents, teachers, police, or firefighters.
WHAT TO DO
In the event of a needlestick, the affected area should be washed thoroughly with soap and water – do not scrub or squeeze the area. Disinfectants have not been proven to be more effective than soapy water. If needed, cover with a clean bandage.
The child or adult should be brought to a medical facility immediately; it is important to report if the needle stick caused bleeding.
Any information about the needle is valuable; for instance: if the needle was attached to a syringe or if visible blood is present in or on the needle or syringe.
Needles can be used for various medical conditions and it is possible that a needlestick happens in the home. When possible, knowledge of the original needle user is necessary because it could add important medical information and assist the doctor when evaluating the person accidentally stuck.
All needlesticks – whether they occur in homes or not – should be treated and assessed by medical professionals. The medical provider will assess what is next but many times, it is likely blood will be drawn as well as vaccinations recommended. There will also be follow-up visits to ensure no infections occur. It is not uncommon to be referred to an Infectious Disease specialist. It is important that anyone injured by a discarded needle take advantage of support systems available.
At New Health we’ve been building a coalition concerning substance use and have made strides over the past several months of meeting. We’ve recently hired a Coalition Manager, David Perry LICSW, who will be going out into the community to ask for feedback about what people would like to be informed about or programs they’d like initiated which would address problems related to substance use. David will also offer educational — as well as supportive remedies – to affected persons and their families or significant others. We are also recruiting a street outreach worker. Funding for the positions and program was made possible through a grant from the State secured by Rep. Aaron Michelwitz.
New Health has an integrated team that offers substance use education and confidential treatment. If anyone has questions please contact Norma Reppucci, Substance Use Director at 857-324-2005. For a full list of services, or for more information, visit our website.
Norma Reppucci is the Director of Substance Use Disorder in Charlestown for NEW Health. She has many years of experience in the substance use field.