GRAFTON—Two locals took advantage of the nice weather and decided to do something that would not only improve the look of the area but would improve the well-being of residents and guests as well.
Facing a drug problem, Taylor County has seen the horrible aftermath of the growing methamphetamine epidemic that has been plaguing the area, and one of results of the issue are used needles in public places, that threaten the health of the area’s citizens.
The sight and presence of hypodermic needles in areas where children play is disturbing and dangerous. Seeing a need to do something to help mitigate health risks associated with the drug paraphernalia, Brian Kennedy and Josh King set out to help, collecting the remnants of drug usage.
“I received a call from someone that told me they saw needles laying around. Not only is it dangerous for the kids in this community, but it looks trashy,” commented Kennedy. “So, I got in contact with Cathy Coontz at Taylor County Family Resources, and she was able to help us get the supplies we needed.”
“This is my community, and while I tore this town up for a long time, I want to spend every little bit of extra time I have putting back into the community,” he expressed.
Over the course of a couple of days, Kennedy and King were able to rid the city of a portion of the dirty and potentially deadly needles.
“We went under the bridges and made the loop through town cleaning up as we went along,” Kennedy reported. “Under the bridges it’s really bad, but you know what was even crazier is, I picked up two from right in front of the post office.”
He said that he has tossed around the idea of placing containers at the ends of the bridges within city limits, as a way to try and entice users to properly dispose of their needles. Once in place, Kennedy shared that he would check the boxes weekly to make sure they were cleaned out.
He shared that he believes it is important for the safety of others that the hypodermics are not left along the roadways, the river, in parks or sidewalks, where they could potentially harm someone.
According to officials, syringes used to inject methamphetamine and other drugs can contain traces of Hepatitis B and C, HIV and other blood-borne viruses. The used needles also possess the risk of spreading skin diseases, and in some cases, they could even contain residual narcotics.
Because of the health risks associated with their efforts, Kennedy and King were outfitted with no-poke gloves, pliers and Sharps needle containers, courtesy of Taylor County Family Resources and the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department.
“These guys are out there trying to provide a service to the community, so we wanted to make sure that they stay healthy and safe while doing so,” said Taylor County Family Resources Executive Director Cathy Coontz-Griffith. “Once the containers are filled, we will work with the health department to make sure the needles are properly disposed of.”
Residents are reminded that they should never touch the used needles with their bare hands.
“They should always use some form of protective gear for their hands, either utility, medical or kitchen gloves,” said Coontz-Griffith. “And pliers or another grabbing device should be used to pick up any used syringes.”
When pliers are not available, a towel or even a paper towel may be used, to properly dispose of the needles, which should be placed in a Sharps container, ideally.
When Sharps containers are not available, individuals may use a hard, rigid container with a screw top lid, like a liquid detergent bottle or a soda bottle, to collect the needles and other sharp objects.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) Infectious Medical Waste Program also notes that coffee containers may be used, but the lid will need to be securely fasted after the sharps are placed inside.
Before disposal, the needles will need to be properly disinfected, before being placed in the garbage. To disinfect the items, mix one tablespoon of bleach with 16 ounces of water. Pour the mixture inside of the container before sealing it shut.
On the outside of the container, it should be notice that sharps are contained inside. The WVDHHR suggest labeling the container in clear lettering “TREATED SHARPS, NON-RECYCLABLE.”
The container should then be placed in a separate garbage bag and the opening should be tied or taped closed. Once properly secured, the used sharps may then be placed into a regular trash receptacle.
For more information, please contact the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department by phone at 304-265-1288, or the WVDHHR Infectious Medical Waste Program at 304-558-6783.