Health department promotes sharps disposal program


On a recent morning, Lin Montgomery came across a post on the Seymour Police Department’s Facebook page that caught her eye.

“Please call us ASAP if you see these,” police posted along with a picture of two syringes lying on top of a police car.

Officers had worked a case Feb. 5 in which an uncapped syringe was discarded inside the tube of a roll of bathroom tissue in a public restroom. A woman accidentally punctured her finger on the uncapped needle.

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Unlawfully possessing a syringe is a Level 6 felony in Indiana. The syringes are often discarded where people least expect to find them and are even tossed out car windows into yards where children play, police said in the post.

“Please contact Seymour police so that we can dispose of these in a safe manner,” the post read. “If you can, stay near the syringe to point it out and keep others away. If you must leave the area, do not move the needle, but try to place a marking object near it to make it easier for us to recover.”

The post prompted Montgomery, the public health coordinator for the Jackson County Health Department, to promote the sharps disposal program, a safe and secure disposal of medical sharp supplies.

The program provides free sharps containers and needle clips to Jackson County residents who rely on needles to administer lifesaving medicines. Plus, there are needle drop boxes outside the health department and fire stations in Crothersville and Medora.

“Because the health department is so concerned about the general public’s health and needle sticks — accidental or otherwise — do spread communicable diseases, we want people who have to use it to be able to dispose of it properly without harming anyone else,” Montgomery said.

The sharps disposal program was established in 2009 in cooperation with the Jackson County Recycling District. That came after a garbage collector got stuck by a needle that had been thrown in the trash.

The goal is to keep the sharps out of the daily trash and landfill for the overall safety of all Jackson County citizens.

The recycling district provides funding for the two sizes of sharps disposal containers for the health department to hand out. They are only for disposal of used medical sharps or needles. No other waste should be placed in the container.

“If for some reason, even short term or long term, they have to use syringes, we have a program that asks no questions,” Montgomery said. “All they have to do is come in and say, ‘Can I have one of those containers?’ fill the container up, bring it in and we dispose of it.”

Once the container is full, it can be returned to the health department during business hours and exchanged for a new one. Full containers also may be placed in the needle drop boxes at any time.

A needle clip can be used to safely clip off the needle so it goes inside the device.

“You stick the needle in, clip the needle and throw the syringe away because it’s not useful anymore,” Montgomery said.

Seymour Officer Craig Owens said there is a sharps disposal container in each of the department’s vehicles.

If someone finds a syringe, he recommends they call police and stay near the syringe until they arrive so the officer can easily find it.

Each officer is trained to use gloves while collecting syringes and put them in the sharps container as quickly as possible.

On Feb. 6, Officer Jeremy Helmsing posted a picture of himself doing just that.

“For those doubting our capability/willingness to recover syringes from the community on the regular, we put in that work,” he wrote.

The next day, a post on the page stated there has been a 7% increase in publicly discarded needle calls in the past month, and officers generally recover one every other day.

“Please dispose of these correctly or give us a call,” the post said.

Besides providing the sharps disposal containers to the police department, Montgomery and nurses from the health department will have a training session this week for the city’s parks and public works employees on bloodborne pathogens and the proper and safe way to pick up needles.

“Each of the trucks and anybody that wants one personally is going to get a box to keep in their vehicles,” Montgomery said.

She also said school nurses in the county do a similar training once a year for school employees.

With the needle drop boxes, Montgomery said a health department staff member checks on them on a monthly basis.

She said they soon plan to add needle drop boxes outside Human Services Inc. in Seymour and the community center in Freetown.

“We want to get to the outlying areas,” she said of the reason for putting one in Freetown. “We do have more kiosks, and we’re always looking for new places to put them.”

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The Jackson County Health Department provides free sharps disposal containers and needle clips to give residents a safe and secure way to dispose of medical sharp supplies.

There also are needle drop boxes outside the health department, 801 W. Second St., Seymour; Crothersville-Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department, 200 Moore St., Crothersville; and Carr Township Volunteer Fire Department, 167 S. Perry St. Soon, there will be boxes outside Human Services Inc., 1115 E. Oak St., Seymour, and the Freetown Community Center at Second and Union streets in Freetown.

For information about the sharps disposal program, call the health department at 812-522-6474 or stop by between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.


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