Shelby County Health Department promoting safe needle disposal program

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Needles and syringes are not just in doctors offices, some people use them at home everyday for things like insulin.

The Shelby County Health Department gets plenty of calls about those needles.

"Internally, we were getting a lot of calls asking, 'What can we do with our sharps? What can we do with our needles? " said Alisa Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department.

The questions got Jennifer Randle,  a health department lab supervisor,  thinking.

"The question that got me started was, 'Why doesn't the Shelby County Health Department have a safe way for us to dispose of our needles? I was like, 'You know, you are right. We should have a safe way.' So from that I started researching," said Randle.

Her research found other cities and counties had needle disposal programs, but Shelby County did not. Those programs relied on grants.

"When the grant fund money ran out, that was the end of the service," said Randle.

People had no way to dispose of the needles.

Her solution is a box that the health department now sells for $5.00.

People keep it at home, fill it up and take it back to the health department for safe disposal. The health department's $5 containers are larger than the $13 ones in pharmacies, where there is no disposal.

"When they come back and it is filled, they pay another $5 and get another container," said Randle.

The health department says the program pays for itself and is safer then using bleach bottles or coffee cans to dispose of needles, since those things can be punctured.

"They can come open. Some of those needles can come out, and they can be stuck inadvertently," said Haushalter.

"It is not gonna crack open number 1, and the needle stays inside of it. It is safe for the environment," said Randle, as she demonstrated using the health department's containers.

The sealed boxes are then stored for pick up by the disposal company with whom the health department contracts.

They hope to expand the program in the future.

"Where we are now is making sure people know about the programs and are able to access and use it," said Haushalter.

You can purchase the $5 box,  cash only, and drop the box off at the same place, Room 258 of the Shelby County Health Department at 814 Jefferson Avenue - between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.

Call 901-222-9479 for more information.

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