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Massena Drug-Free Coalition to collect used needles Saturday

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MASSENA — With more than 61 hypodermic needles found on the streets and sidewalks, as well as in the community’s parks and playgrounds, since the start of last year, village Police Chief Timmy J. Currier has worked to help organize a needle sweep set for Saturday at parks and playgrounds across the village.

“These needles are dangerous and cause significant safety concern for our community,” Mr. Currier said in a statement.

Those numbers reflect what law enforcement say is the growing popularity of heroin in the community.

The sweep will take place Saturday morning and include trained people from the Drug Free Coalition, as well as community volunteers. The group will meet at 10 a.m. at the Massena Chamber of Commerce.

“Volunteers will simply be used to look for the items and if located a trained person will then collect the item,” Mr. Currier said.

Targeted areas will include Springs Park, the wooden playground, North Main Street, Alcoa Field Park, Brighton Street Park and the North Side Park near the footbridge. Mr. Currier said crews also will be searching through the playgrounds at Madison, Jefferson and Nightingale elementary schools, as well as Trinity Catholic School.

According to Mr. Currier, both the school district’s safety team and the coalition are working on campaigns to educate children and community members on what to do if they see a hypodermic needle.

In accordance with state law, Mr. Currier said, locations in Massena participate in the Expanded Syringe Access Program, which allows drug users to purchase clean needles, although the law also prohibits those businesses from advertising they are participants in it.

Though the program is controversial, its main goal is to reduce the spread of diseases among both drug users and the public, he said. Mr. Currier said he would like to discuss transitioning from a program that allows drug users to purchase needles to one that requires them to exchange dirty needles in order to receive clean ones.

While Mr. Currier said he would like to see the program discussed, he isn’t yet sure it is one he would support.

“I recognize its value in reducing the spread of disease, yet I wonder if we are making drug use more convenient for people,” he said. “Either way, if we are going to provide access to syringes, let’s do this in a manner that reduces the risk to innocent people, and requiring addicts to exchange needles seems like a logical step.”

Mr. Currier said a balance of prevention, enforcement and treatment is the only way to solve Massena’s drug crisis.

“On the prevention side, we need a renewed focus on values, whether it’s through one’s spiritual beliefs, improved parenting skills, stronger positive peer influence in our young people’s lives or a combination of all these,” he said. “Our young people need good influences and something to do.”

Education is also a key. “We know in New York state if you fail to graduate on time you are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested and eight times more likely to go to jail,” he said.

On the treatment side, Mr. Currier said there are aren’t enough resources in the area to deal with the drug crisis.

“The services that are currently available are top notch, but too little. Addiction is a lifelong battle that requires support,” he said.

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