Groundswell At Local Level

Communities Engage Industry For Sharps Safety

Erie County, New York State, USA In 2001, the state of New York implemented the Expanded Syringe Access Program (ESAP) to expand access to sterile hypodermic needles and syringes. The Public Health Law was amended to allow any adult individual to legally obtain and possess hypodermic needles without a medical prescription. ESAP's objective was to prevent the spread of blood-borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis strains B and C. Although the law requires facilities that dispense hypodermic needles to also make provisions for their safe post-use disposal, it did not specify exactly how the disposal would be implemented. The disposal options offered by many providers proved inconvenient for users, resulting in an increase in used syringes entering the municipal waste stream. To address this issue, Erie County implemented a community-based program of sharps kiosks at various locations county-wide, including participating pharmacies, airports, bus stations, clinics and at some municipal housing sites and convenience stores. Funding for this program is provided in part by the New York State AIDS Institute.

Similar programs in Seattle and New York City, which began as syringe collection programs for illicit drug users, have now expanded to provide used needle collection services for users of prescription injectible medications.