When the Snohomish Health District began offering free kits to safely pick up and dispose of discarded syringes, they had no idea how strong the demand would be.
Just days after announcing Sept. 13 that people could stop by its Everett offices to get the supplies, the initial 50 kits were snapped up. And the names of 89 people were added to the waiting list.
“Our phones have been ringing trying to find out when the kits will be back in again,” said Heather Thomas, a health district spokeswoman.
With new supplies arriving daily, the public health agency hopes to eliminate the waiting list and have about 100 kits available Monday.
Used syringes have littered parks, playgrounds and sidewalks as heroin abuse has surged. The kits provide the necessary supplies so people can safely dispose of syringes.
The kits include a sharps container to safely store the syringes until they can be disposed, puncture-resistant gloves, safety glasses, tongs, hand sanitizer and instructions.
They can be picked up from the Snohomish Health District at 3020 Rucker Avenue in Everett during business hours. Used syringes must be returned to the district in a sharps container to be safely disposed.
So far, about 100 kits have been distributed. One container filled with syringes already has been returned.
The problem in filling the requests for the kits occurred due to a shortage of puncture-resistant gloves.
“They’ve been trying to pull inventory from all over the country,” Thomas said.
The public health agency anticipated there would be community interest in the kits, but didn’t expect it to be so immediate.
“The fact that we had so many gone 24 to 36 hours after opening the program speaks to the need and the desire to do more,” Thomas said.
The supplies for each kit cost just under $20. The health district plans to dispense 1,000 kits.
Money for the kits came in part from donations made by cities across the county to provide financial support to the public health agency. About $400,000 in new money was raised, Thomas said.
When the health district made the request for financial support last year, the opioid issue was one of the top issues cities said they would like to see addressed, Thomas said.