Progressive Supervisor Jane Kim has been somewhat pointed in her criticism of the Recreation and Park Department for its reticence to install needle disposal boxes in public parks, the Examiner reports. Rec and Park head Phil Ginsburg was under pressure from Kim at a meeting last week, that paper writes, in which she called sharply for boxes to be installed in such spaces.
“I know this is a tough discussion point, but I do think it’s important to have needle disposal boxes at our parks,” Kim reportedly said. “Not to encourage people to use, just so that there is a safe disposal site.”
But will intravenous drug users change their behavior and recognize the proper way to dispose of needles if there are more boxes for this purpose in parks?
Used needles on city streets had spiked according to an annual city report issued last November. While there are 10 safe needle deposit boxes in the city, the first installed near Glide Memorial Church in 2009, that's hardly a box at every corner. The other needle disposal box locations are listed here by the city's public health department. Pit Stops — a series of portable toilets in San Francisco — also have sharps disposal bins.
It isn't just illegal to drop a syringe on the grass at a park or the pavement on a street. Disposing of syringes in trash cans is illegal in the state of California, as Guillermo Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the Department of Environment, tells the Examiner. "“Sharps or needles that are improperly disposed of in the black bin or recycling bin pose a health hazard to sanitation workers both to collection and recycling workers and indirectly to maintenance and mechanic workers when sharps jam bins and equipment."
Department of Public Health coordinator and syringe access/disposal community liaison Eileen Loughran tells the Ex she understands there are concerns about adding disposal bins to parks. “People always fear it will draw people to the hang out in the area. That’s not been the case,” Loughran told the paper. But she refutes the idea. “People are not drawn to hang out near boxes like they are water coolers.” She's open to adding boxes to public parks — but that's up to them.