Needle boxes installed at Hempstead Town Hall

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Several used hypodermic needles found in garbage cans inside Hempstead Town Hall over the past few months prompted officials to install permanent deposit boxes for safer disposal.

"It could be someone using products they're not supposed to be using, it could be related to the opioid crisis we're experiencing on Long Island," Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said. "But it could be someone who knows to do it properly but just doesn't have the resources to do it so they're being lazy and just throwing it in the trash can."

Hempstead is one of the busiest community hubs on Long Island. Last year, more than 110,000 visitors passed through its doors.

Health experts remind people, especially those who struggle with addiction, that a variety of treatment options are available. They hope the boxes will address all needle users and properly protect the public.

"The main diseases we look at are bloodborne pathogens. We're talking about things like HIV, [hepatitis] B, C," Fara Stricker, a nurse practitioner with Northwell Health, said. "But any needle, even if there's no blood-borne pathogen on it, puts you at risk at the site of the needle. Also, if it's older or rusty, it can put you at risk for tetanus."

Syringe boxes will be installed inside all of Town Hall's public restrooms as well as the Town Clerk's Office. The goal is to prevent needles and syringes from ending up on the streets and ultimately getting into the waterways.

"You cannot reach in to take the needle back out because of the way it's designed," Dr. David Neubert, the town's medical director, said. "Once the box is full, then it will close and will prevent anyone from going inside and any more needles from going in the box."

Town medical personnel will properly secure and dispose of filled boxes at a cost of $20 to $30 each. Officials said that is money well spent.

"We are not encouraging opioid users to come to Town Hall to dispose of their medication," Gillen said. "The point is saying if perchance someone has a needle they can dispose of it in a way that won't put other people at risk."

Based on the success of the pilot program, the syringe boxes could be seen at town beaches and parks this summer.