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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York
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Massena Drug-Free Coalition walking through parks in search of needles.

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MASSENA - With more than 60 hypodermic needles found on the streets and sidewalks, as well as in the community’s parks and playgrounds since the start of last year, Massena Village Police Chief Timmy J. Currier has worked to help organize a needle sweep that will be held on this Saturday at parks and playgrounds across the village.

“Since January 2013, the police department has received 61 complaints of discarded hypodermic needles that were found by citizens,” Mr. Currier said in a statement. “These needles are dangerous and cause significant safety concern for our community.”

Those numbers reflect the growing popularity of heroin in the community.

Mr. Currier said the sweep will take place on Saturday morning and include trained people from the Drug Free Coalition, as well as volunteers from around the community.

“The group will meet at 10 a.m. at the Massena Chamber of Commerce on Church Street, receive safety training, be organized into groups and deployed,” Mr. Currier said. “Volunteers will simply be used to look for the items and if located a trained person will then collect the item.”

Mr. Currier continued, “Having used syringes, which are dangerous biohazard instruments, discarded around town creates a risk for all of our citizens.”

Targeted areas on Saturday will include Springs Park, the wooden playground, North Main Street, Alcoa Field Park, Brighton Street Park and the North Side Park near the foot bridge. Mr. Currier said crews will also be searching through the playgrounds at Madison, Jefferson, and Nightingale elementaries, as well as Trinity Catholic School.

According to Mr. Currier, both the school district’s safety team and coalition are working on campaigns aimed at educating children and community members on what to do if they see a hypodermic needle.

In accordance with state law, Mr. Currier said there are locations within Massena that participate in the Expanded Syringe Access Program, although the law also prohibits those businesses from advertising they are a participant in the program

That program, Mr. Currier said allows drug users to purchase clean needles.

“Recognizing that this program brings with it controversy, it is important for us to understand that the main idea behind the program is to reduce the spread of disease. Not just among illegal drug users, but throughout all our citizenry.”

Mr. Currier said he would like to discuss transitioning from a program that allows drug users to purchase needles to one that requires them to exchange dirty needles in order to receive clean ones.

“Along with reducing the spread of disease, we can then reduce the number of improperly discarded syringes around town, thereby reducing the threat to everyone, most notably our children,” he said.

While Mr. Currier said he would like to see the program discussed, he has not yet made up his mind, whether it is one he would support.

“I have to admit, personally, I am the fence about this program. I recognize its value in reducing, the spread of disease, yet I wonder if we are making drug use more convenient for people,” he said. “Either way, if we are going to provide access to syringes let’s do this in a manner that reduces the risk to innocent people and requiring addicts to exchange needles seems like a logical step.”

Mr. Currier said a balance of prevention, enforcement and treatment is the only way to solve Massena’s drug crisis.

“On the prevention side, we need a renewed focus on values, whether it’s through one’s spiritual beliefs, improved parenting skills, stronger positive peer influence in our young people’s lives or a combination of all these,” he said. “Our young people need good influences and something to do.”

Education is also amongst the keys to success in this fight.

“We have a great education system, however too many of our young people are not succeeding. We must do better,” he said. “We know in New York state if you fail to graduate on time you are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested and eight more times likely to go to jail.”

On the treatment side, Mr. Currier said there are simply not enough resources available in the area to deal with this problem.

“On the treatment side, we have to ask ourselves the very simple question, do we have enough services available in Northern New York to deal with the level of addiction we face?” The answer is no,” he said. “The services that are currently available are top notch, but too little. Addiction is a lifelong battle that requires support.”

Mr. Currier said it is impossible to “arrest our way out of the heroin epidemic.Whatever resources we have locally, at the state level and federally, in my view, need to be prioritized in a way that addresses one of the biggest challenges that many communities face - illegal drugs and problems that come with them,” he said.

“I’m so proud of the work our Drug Free Coalition is doing. Hard working dedicated professionals and volunteers that are working to bring solutions to a challenging problem. However, locally we have limitations.A regional effort, a state effort and a national effort is required to adequately address this issue.”

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