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SHARP effort to clean up needles and syringes in ABQ area

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Mayor Tim Keller joins Albuquerque Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dow, at lectern, to unveil a plan to deal with improperly disposed needles and syringes. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller on Monday unveiled a plan to clean up improperly disposed needles and syringes around the city.

The new program, called SHARP – Safe Handling and Routing of Paraphernalia – is a coordinated effort among several city departments, along with Bernalillo County, to cut down on the number of improperly disposed sharps in public spaces.

During a news conference at Wilson Park in the city’s southeast side, Keller said removing disposed needles and syringes will not eliminate homelessness or addiction, but it’s a community health issue that needs addressing.

“There’s no doubt that our city is facing many challenges related to addiction,” Keller said. “One of the signs of those challenges is the improper disposal of needles in public spaces, especially parks. The SHARP Program is one way we can work together to take back our parks and playgrounds.”

When a needle is found, residents can call 311 or use the city’s new One ABQ app to report its location rather than 911 or a specific department. The app allows people to include a picture of the exact location of the item to help responders quickly locate and dispose of it.

Trained city employees will then locate and dispose of the needle in a safe manner.

Residents in the unincorporated areas of the county, outside the city limits of Albuquerque, can call 798-7000 to report syringes in their area.

In addition, the Bernalillo County Senior and Social Services Office is collaborating with the city’s Environmental Health Department to offer training to community members on the proper way to safely pick up and dispose of syringes.

Enrique Cardiel, Bernalillo County’s urban health extension coordinator, said volunteer groups have collected more than 1,700 syringes in the past 11 weeks at parks and other public places using the training provided by the city’s Environmental Health Department. He said the once-a-week effort is giving “community residents power over their own environment.”

“We know there’s a lot there. We’ve seen a lot,” Cardiel said. “This is not addressing the addiction issue … but it’s a environmental health and public health issue.”

The program will also use six secure drop boxes donated by the New Mexico Department of Health. The kiosks will be strategically located around the city to allow people to properly dispose of their needles and syringes.

Residents can find more information on how to properly dispose of privately owned sharps or needles found on private property by visiting www.cabq.gov/fire/household-pharmaceutical-disposal. A list of participating public sharps drop-off locations is also included on the website.

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