A closer look at volunteer sharps collection in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown municipal workers and volunteers continue to collect and dispose of used needles during the information gathering phase of the decision making process.

In November, Milan Puskar Health Right offered to purchase, place and maintain three of the containers.

Council members have heard testimony from Morgantown police chief Ed Preston, Health Right executive director Laura Jones, peer recovery coach Dani Ludwig and council members who have analyzed similar programs in other cities.

During a workshop on Friday, January 10 mayor Bill Kawecki, deputy mayor Rachel Fetty, councilor Jenny Selin and city manager Paul Brake asked for more time to look at public policy options, education and additional expert testimony.

The officials have committed to moving the issue forward cautiously.

Morgantown city councilman Zack Cruze backs the plan and volunteers to collect and properly dispose of the syringes.

“My partner and I go out to some of these high use areas, Whitmore Park and the area under the bridge, to do litter cleanup,”Cruze said,”Because we’re comfortable picking up these syringes, where a lot of people aren’t we don’t mind to do that.”

Because infectious compounds can maintain viability for weeks in some cases, Cruze says the collection process can be complicated.

“We pick the syringe up off the ground with trash grabbers, put it in a two liter bottle,” Cruze said,”Then carry the bottle to my car with the trash grabbers and transport it to Health Right.”

Cruze added that he transports the medical waste across they city on a regular basis.

Cruze says he supports placing the containers because of data gathered from a similar program in Toronto, Canada. That program resulted in a 98 percent drop of sharps on the ground in a 600 foot radius of the container location.

“So its not just right beside the container where we see the reduction,”Cruze said,”It’s a 600 foot radius and 98 percent reduction of sharps on the ground.”

Morgantown continues the debate January, 21 in council chambers at 7 p.m. with testimony from Mon County public health officer Dr. Lee Smith during the committee of the whole session.