By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

Residents concerned about proposed needle exchange program


October 9, 2018

A possible needle exchange program in Carrick continues to draw support from many residents, but others are not convinced and remain concerned about the impact it will have on the community.

Discussions around Prevention Point’s proposed mobile needle exchange unit continued for the third consecutive Carrick / Overbrook Block Watch meeting as both supporting and opposing views were expressed by community members and city officials.

The program would allow anyone to obtain clean needles, properly dispose of used syringes, and get prescriptions for the overdose reversal drug Naloxone. The mobile unit would operate on Thursday afternoons in the parking lot of the United Methodist Church on Spencer Avenue.

During the meeting, multiple residents said they are concerned the program will bring drug users from other communities into Carrick. Residents living near the proposed site said they are worried the program will lead to an increase in drug activity near their homes.

Another resident expressed concern the program could lead to more dirty needles discarded in the streets and around the neighborhood as the program does not require drug users to return used needles in order to obtain new ones.

“Don’t you think if this were to benefit people it would be more beneficial in a central location and not in a parking lot surrounded by homes?” a resident in attendance asked.

Laura Drogowski, initiatives manager for Mayor Peduto’s office, said there was a list of sites considered for the Prevention Point program.

Ms. Drogowski said among the factors considered for site location were a need for the service due to active drug abuse in the area, and the ability to access the site without first entering a public place.

She went on to say there have never been any criminal incidents or problems related to Prevention Points other three locations. The only issues that came from needle exchange programs occurred when individual programs operated illegally between 1995 and 2002.

“There is a conversation that needs to happen, and we want to continue that conversation,” Ms. Drogowski said. “But not at the cost of lives.”

Councilman Anthony Coghill also expressed support for the program and said the program is critical for preventing the spread of diseases including HIV and Hepatitis-C

“I know so much about it now, and if I put it in my driveway, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.” the councilman said. “If I thought it would be a nuisance to the neighborhood I would never support it.”

Gus DiRenna, a community member and recovering addict spoke about his experience with Prevention Point and said the program ultimately saved his life. He encouraged the community to give the program a chance.

“We want to see what happens,” Mr. DiRenna said. “If it were something to be afraid of, I would know and I would tell you guys we can’t do it.”

City council must approve Prevention Point’s proposal before the program can begin.

In addition to the needle exchange discussion, Zone 3 officer Christine Luffey announced several significant criminal incidents that occurred in Carrick and Overbrook between September 10 and October 1.

Police are investigating a report of indecent exposure that occurred on September 17 at 2:11 p.m. in the 1100 block of Brownsville Road. According to the report, a male suspect exposed himself to a female after he stopped her to ask for directions.

A warrant has been issued for a female suspect wanted for aggravated assault following a domestic dispute in the 2200 block of Almont Street on September 19 at 11 p.m.

Several suspects were arrested after police found illegal drugs at a home in the 2000 block of Redrose Avenue on September 20 at 8:13 a.m.

Two were arrested on September 22 at 4:30 p.m. after police pulled over a vehicle when the driver failed to use their turn signal near the 2600 block of Brownsville Road. Police found unprescribed Xanax in the vehicle.

Police are also investigating a robbery and simple assault that happened on September 23 at 11:20 a.m. in the 1500 block of Nobles Lane.

Several citations have been filed against a resident in the 200 block of East Meyers Avenue after police said a dog was left outside in the heat for extended periods of time.

A resident in attendance complained that cars have been speeding and illegally passing school busses at the intersection of Brownsville Road and Churchview Avenue and requested that police monitor the area.

In addition to the crime report, officer Luffey also announced the return of the annual Get Stuffed With Love program. The city-wide initiative provides free meals on Thanksgiving to any resident in need.

“My phone is already ringing,” officer Luffey said. “Everyone is welcome. No requirements.”

Zone 3 residents can request a Thanksgiving meal by contacting officer Christine Luffey at 412-488-8425 by Tuesday, Nov. 20.

The next Carrick / Overbrook block watch meeting will be Monday, Nov. 5 in the former Birmingham United Church of Christ at 25 Carrick Avenue.


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