Junkies have been dumping some 5,000 used needles a week in parks across the Bronx — prompting desperate city officials to install dozens of syringe-disposal kiosks in hopes of cleaning up the dangerous mess.
There has been a dramatic gain in the number of syringes found in parks in the Bronx in recent years because of the ongoing opioid epidemic, city Health Department officials say.
The 60 kiosks, which will be locked trash boxes placed in the hardest-hit Bronx parks, are part of a $60 million HealingNYC program to combat the drug plague, announced Monday.
The plan will also include outreach from needle-exchange programs to users who shoot up in parks.
“Everyone deserves parks that are safe and clean,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver. “Our goal is to protect parkgoers and to offer a helping hand to those struggling with addiction.”
He added that the program will be modeled after similar initiatives in Seattle and Vancouver, Canada.
Among the 16 impacted parks is Saint Mary’s in Mott Haven — the largest park in the South Bronx — as well as Tremont Park and Crotona Park.
City Health Department officials couldn’t say how many needles a typical addict runs through per day, since it varies by level of addiction, as well as the type and amount of drug injected.
Drug users are eager to dispose used needles quickly because they’re worried about getting caught by police, according to Mark Townsend of the Corner Project in Washington Heights.
The nonprofit group piloted the city’s first-ever syringe kiosk in May 2016, installing a daisy-shaped drop box at Haven Park Underpass in upper Manhattan.
The first city-run kiosks — which will be emptied by trained park workers or needle-exchange-program staffers — can hold from 250 to 2,000 syringes each, according to health officials.
The program will expand to other boroughs if it proves successful, but officials couldn’t immediately say when the first of the kiosks will be installed.
“Collaborating with NYC Parks is part of our comprehensive plan to address the opioid epidemic and help keep all New Yorkers safe, including people who use drugs,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.
As part of the city’s wider efforts to combat opioid use and stem an increase in overdoses, Mayor Bill de Blasio recently approved the opening of four supervised injection facilities where drug users can shoot up under medical supervision.
Community hearings concerning the sites — two in Manhattan, one in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn — have been scheduled while the city awaits necessary approvals in coming months.
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