Needles are a growing problem in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- Cleaning up needles is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it -- just ask Robert Shultz. 

"This is the kit to live in Southeast," Schultz said. "You take something that you can pick the needles up and something that's safe to put them in." 

He carries an empty plastic milk jug and a trash picker to avoid contact with the needles when he patrols Lents Park to clean up. 

It's a kit that a lot of his neighbors have and it comes in handy. He said he collected about 20 needles that were dumped last week.

"It's incredibly irritating that I just can't have my kids go outside," he said. 

That's why people are volunteering their time searching for drug paraphernalia in areas like Lents Park.

Kim Toeves with the Multnomah County Health Department said there's a rise in finding needles because of 2 things: More people are injecting and more people are living on the streets. 

She said county officials are working with Metro and the city to figure out what they can do together to solve the problem. 

One short term solution is placing more needle drop boxes throughout the county. There's one under the Burnside Bridge, but Schulz said it's not working.

"What is the metal container gonna provide but a networking location so they can find the better drugs? I don't understand the value of it," he said. 

Schulz suggested the county should turn over the needle drop program.

"Put it next to the fire department," he said. "Give the fire department some money so they can manage the problem officially, so they can do what they already do. They're EMTs, they're trained, they can candle this kind of stuff. They can dispose of it safely." 


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