16,500 needles found in La Crosse's disposal boxes

Boxes were installed in April

Needles Collected Reaches 16,500

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - It has been two months since the La Crosse County Health Department installed two needle disposal boxes in the city.

Since that time, thousands of needles have been collected.

Last month, News 8 reported roughly 9,000 needles had been placed in the two needle disposal boxes in La Crosse.

Now, a total of 16,500 needles have been collected. That's 150 pounds of needles.

Emily Whitney is a professor at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and a member of the Heroin and Other Illicit Drug Task Force.

She said the boxes, which are located at the King Street alley near downtown La Crosse and near the boat landing behind Hardees on the north side, are in perfect locations.

"These boxes are more convenient, and you can put more in it,” Whitney said. “It's really easy to drive up and put things in, so you don't have to go into the Kwik Trip, or don't have to go anywhere else."

The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, which hands out needle exchange kits in La Crosse, is encouraged by the progress.

"Given all the background and history of folks being really concerned about that in the La Crosse area, I think the fact that these are being used, and being used appropriately, is an indicator of a need for these programs and the success of these programs,” said Bill Keeton, vice president of public relations for the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin.

Since 2014, the La Crosse fire department has been in charge of collecting needles that have not been properly disposed of, but Whitney hopes the success of the disposal boxes will lead to that job being transferred to volunteers and the AIDS Resource Center.

"That is still something that's in the works. There's just a variety of logistics that have to be worked out in order to make it all happen,” Whitney said.

The success of the program could lead to more disposal boxes being installed throughout the city.

"As we see how they are continuing to be utilized over the next few months, then quite potentially we would install more boxes,” Whitney said.

The Heroin and Other Illicit Drug Task Force said there has been a mix of needles found in the disposal boxes.

Some of the needles were used for medical reasons, while other needles have been used in illegal drug use.

The task force said there has been very minor incidents involving damage to the boxes.

It said the boxes are meant to withstand vandalism.

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