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Over 9,000 needles discarded in new dropoff boxes

Boxes installed in late April

Over 9,000 needles discarded in new...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - The La Crosse County Health Department has collected a staggering amount of needles in a three-week period.

The reason is because of two needle disposal boxes now installed in the city.

Those needle disposal boxes are located near the boat landing by Hardees on the Northside, and in the King Street Alley near downtown.

The needles are coming from both drug users and those using needles for health reasons, and the numbers are already showing a difference.

"Between the two boxes, we have collected approximately 9,500 needles, and that equates to about 85 pounds of syringes and sharps,” said Jen Rombalski of the La Crosse County Health Department.

The needles are coming from a variety of uses.

"We can tell the difference between the kinds of needles that are coming in, so we know that they're coming in from both types of use,” Rombalski said.

The biggest takeaway from the early data indicates that many people didn't have a place to dispose of their needles properly.

"They're coming in bags, not in hard plastics containers,” Rombalski said. “We would never want these disposed of outside of hazard and sharps container. So that's exactly what these boxes are for, is to help collect all of those needles that no one knows where to put otherwise."

The La Crosse Fire Department has been in charge of collecting needles since 2014. The number of responses has dropped in the short time since the boxes were installed.

"We've only had four responses for needle pickups in that 21-day period, which averages out to around 0.2 per day. In that same time period a year, in that same 21 day period, we had 23 responses, which is about one a day,” said La Crosse Fire Department Assistant Chief Mark Amann.

It's good news, but the Fire Department said it's not enough data.

"We usually generally look at it over at that over a longer period of time for our longer data, but on the short-term, on the quick look at it -- very encouraging numbers,” Amann said.

For the Health Department, the number shows the boxes have already been a helpful resource.

"It's a great way to get them out of our streets, out of our community, and into a place where they can be disposed of properly,” Rombalski said.

The health department said the box in the northside location was out for a few days while it was being repaired.

As of now, both boxes are properly working.

The Health Department said that if these numbers continue, they may look into more boxes in other locations.

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