Bernalillo County launches app to track collected needles

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – People are tired of hypodermic needles littering public areas, parks, playgrounds and sidewalks — a sign of the opioid problem. Now, Bernaillo County is tracking it in a new way in an effort to better tackle the problem.

Friday, volunteers and Bernalillo County Behavioral Health staff collected nearly 100 used hypodermic needles from an abandoned Albuquerque home.

It’s a common problem in Albuquerque. The county constantly gets calls about needles in parks, little league fields, abandoned properties and bus stops. Once all the needles were picked up, the group was able to log their work in the county’s new needle map app. 

The county officially launched the technology Friday, but it has been tracking needle pickup numbers since May 2018. 

“These are the points that have been collected so far. Right now, there is over 13,000 needles that have been collected with this app,” says Behavior Health Service Administrator Sam Howarth.

Using the app, people can see when and where needles are picked up. The app also has a heat map, so users can also track the migration of needle use in the city and county. The hot spots right now are along Central from San Mateo to Wyoming.

“A good example is when they fenced in the old grocery store that’s across from the Caravan lot. People migrated north into the neighborhoods, so the needles were less dense at the grocery store and more dense in the neighborhoods,” Howarth says.

Some other hot spots include the Tower Neighborhood; near Central and Coors; near I-40 and Fifth Street; and near Menaul and Carlisle. County and state leaders say the app will help them better use their resources to not only clean up the sites, but lead them to people struggling with drug addiction. 

“It will help all of us and collaborative agencies to be able to determine where our services are needed the most,” Dominick Zurlo with the New Mexico Department of Health

The county also has four syringe collection drop boxes where people can dispose of used needles. To view the app, click here.

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