Students Rally For Better Safety Around Methadone Mile

By Victoria Kim 12/14/17

Discarded needles have gotten so bad in the area that a school nurse created pamphlets showing kids what to do if they see one on the ground.

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students protesting

Students, parents and teachers came together Monday (Dec. 11) to bring awareness to the public safety issue they face every day at Boston’s Orchard Gardens K-8 School—dozens of discarded needles that litter the streets and school grounds. 

The needles are said to be coming from people who are receiving treatment for substance use disorder at nearby Boston Medical Center (BMC), just blocks from the school.

School nurse Sue Burchill illustrated the extent of the problem. “After a long break, we can get a Home Depot orange bucket full of needles between the parking lot and the playground,” she said, according to WHDH

Now that it’s winter, school officials are worried about the kids’ safety, especially with fallen leaves and snow on the ground. Proposed solutions include having “needle-safe barrels” and clean-up crews. Burchill says the school is lacking the manpower to keep up with the litter.

“We want to get rid of all the needles so that when kids go outside to play, they can feel safe,” said Selmira Monteiro, a student at Orchard Gardens. “These people don’t know what they’re doing. They’re just using it and throwing it because they’re sick, and I feel technically sad for them because it’s not their fault.”

Nurse Burchill even made pamphlets for the kids about what to do if they see a needle: stop, turn around, and tell an adult. “When we play soccer, we’ve had to stop the game to pick up the needle,” said Burchill. “You can’t even sit in the bleachers in our little field because they shoot up underneath them.” 

The area near BMC, also known as “Methadone Mile,” has become notorious for the widespread drug use there, amid methadone clinics and sober living homes.

The city itself is looking at the problem, hoping to help the situation with outreach workers and “safe spaces” where drug users can go to use, away from public areas.

But the city’s efforts have yet to make a difference. “Residents still find discarded needles in their yards and people injecting drugs on their front steps or passed out in alleys behind their homes,” said neighborhood association president George Stergios in October, according to SFGate.

The rebranding of Methadone Mile to “Recovery Road” will take time, said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who is in recovery himself. 

“Recovery doesn’t happen overnight,” said the mayor. “It’s about seeing this as the disease it is, and working hard to lift up everyone in the neighborhood so everyone’s quality of life improves.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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