PORTLAND, Ore. -- From 2016 to 2017, workers with the Downtown Portland Clean & Safe District picked 64 percent more dirty hypodermic needles off of city streets and sidewalks.
New numbers Thursday from the agency, run under the umbrella of the Portland Business Alliance, show the numbers of needles gathered by workers for the last five years.
“These are needles that are collected only in public spaces like sidewalks,” said Lynnae Berg, executive director of Clean & Safe with the PBA. “We don't collect in the parks, so it's unknown what the magnitude is in the parks downtown.”
Directors released the numbers one day after a Portland-area dad told KGW his toddler was stuck by a needle while riding the MAX train.
Tests show the girl is okay for now, but she’ll need more check-ups in the months to come.
“It is a little surprising that it doesn’t happen more often,” said Berg.
Amid the country’s deadly opioid epidemic, advocates and municipal agencies have taken to installing needle drop-boxes and implementing exchange programs.
That includes the Portland People’s Outreach Project, a grassroots group of about 30 core volunteers who fan out across homeless camps and other drug hotspots multiple times a week.
There, they hand out clean needles, portable lock-boxes for dirty ones and Nalaxone, a medication designed to reverse opioid overdose.
“We are all capable of helping people in our community who are just in a different place than we are,” said spokesperson Eliza Hooshiar. “And the needles going away from our streets doesn't mean the problem's over.”