Dirty needle dangers in the community

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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV)- With the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation, comes a dirty needle problem as well. This is a country-wide issue, but it is hitting the Mountain State hard.

Countless syringes have been found in locations ranging from public parks to the grocery store in North Central West Virginia. Officers and paramedics in our area say being poked by a dirty needle during a routine call or pat-down is a growing concern for them.

Bridgeport Police Chief John Walker says individuals put open needles in their pockets or try to hide them, so officers need to be extremely aware.

"They are known to put them in places where they don't think they will find them," Chief Walker said about dirty needles. "For example, in the crack of a car seat. So you go searching through a car or whatever, and get stuck with it."

Chief Walker said that has actually happened to an officer in our area. He added that it has been a growing issue and the number of needles found over the past year has significantly increased.

Some people are blaming programs such as the West Virginia Syringe Exchange and the Harrison County Harm Reduction programs for the increased number of needles. Such programs were established to help stop the spread of HIV, HCV and other blood-borne diseases among addicts by supplying a clean needle, which has been an issue in Harrison County as well.

Joseph Bundy, the Executive Director at the Harrison Clarksburg Health Department says people need to realize that harm reduction programs are just one piece of the puzzle.

"We have to realize that we are in the midst of an opioid crisis, we have not turned that corner yet," Bundy said.

The Harrison Clarksburg Health Department sees an average of 40 to 60 patients every week.