Needle disposal effort set; Collections foster a cleanup for city.


Byline: Priyanka Dayal

WORCESTER- The Board of Health soon will place several yellow drop-boxes around the city where drug users can discard their hypodermic needles and syringes.

The board is planning to install two drop-boxes by the end of this month - one inside the Henry Lee Willis Community Center on Chandler Street and the other on property of the Graham, Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors, Main Street.

Worcester Public Health Commissioner Dr. Leonard J. Morse said if the boxes at those two sites are effective, the board will place additional boxes at six other locations, including Great Brook Valley Health Center and AIDS Project Worcester sites.

Board of Health members say "Operation Yellow Box" will help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS by giving needle-users a safe place to toss their used needles.

Needles often discarded in parks, streets and trash bins put too many innocent people at risk, according to Dr. Morse, who first floated the idea of setting up the disposal containers more than two years ago.

Since then, the idea has met serious opposition from people who say accommodating needle-users is tantamount to condoning the use of illegal drugs, such as heroin. Others doubt the program will actually compel people to use the boxes.

"There has been some significant negative reaction to this effort," Dr. Morse said. "If people could appreciate that we could try this and see how it works and be patient with it, hopefully they will be surprised by how well it works."

William T. Breault, chairman of the Main South Alliance for Public Safety, an opponent of the program, said he is angry the Board of Health did not include the community in its decision to implement the program. He said he opposes the plan philosophically, and also finds it hard to trust a heroin addict to be responsible.

The drop-boxes are designed like the navy blue mail boxes found on most busy street corners. But they are painted a vivid shade of yellow Dr. Morse called "the color of hope."

Signs on all four sides of the boxes will show a graphic of a syringe and will indicate these are for the disposal of needles and syringes only - not for mail.

As with an ordinary mailbox, once people drop something down the chute, they won't be able to retrieve it. Inside the box, a medical waste container 15 inches deep will catch the discarded needles and syringes.

"These are impenetrable," Dr. Morse said.

A private medical waste company, not city workers, will be charged with...

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