Dropbox offers safe place for disposal of used needles in Olympia

Goal of 24-hour box on Cherry Street is to reduce spread of HIV and hepatitis

ahobbs@theolympian.comMay 24, 2014 

The 24-hour dropbox is located outside the Capital Recovery Center and Thurston County Syringe Exchange Program office at 1000 Cherry St. SE.

ANDY HOBBS/STAFF WRITER

Olympia’s first dropbox for disposing dirty needles was installed this month as part of an ongoing effort to address drug-related problems downtown.

The 24-hour dropbox is outside the Capital Recovery Center and Thurston County Syringe Exchange Program office at 1000 Cherry St. SE.

Joe Avalos, chemical dependency program manager with the county, said the dropbox makes up for the limited hours the exchange is open.

More than 1 million needles were exchanged last year, Avalos said, noting that the program helps reduce the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C.

“We collect more than we exchange. That’s been pretty consistent since (the program’s) inception,” said Avalos. “The biggest problem for us is just addiction. The needles are just a symptom of that overall problem.”

The city and the county have been addressing the local heroin epidemic, which has led to discarded needles in public spaces and parks. The dropbox on Cherry Street made sense, Avalos said, because addicts already seek support services at the Capital Recovery Center. Needles collected in the new box haven’t been counted yet, he said. A second dropbox is available for placement in Olympia at a site to be determined.

Heather Moore, executive director of the CRC, called the dropbox a positive contribution to the needle exchange program.

“We’re 100 percent supportive of the county’s program,” she said.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 ahobbs@theolympian.com

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