Mayor Martin Walsh and a cadre of City officials are sounding off this week with plans to put an end to the inundation of dirty drug needles and homeless encampments that have overwhelmed the schoolyard of the Orchard Gardens K-8 school at the edge of the South End on Albany Street.
Last week, the Boston Sun first reported the situation at Orchard Gardens after school employees attended the South End Forum’s Opiate Working Group and explained how the opiate epidemic has inundated their school – even so much as having a child stuck by a dirty needle in October of this year.
This week, Mayor Walsh said it’s an unacceptable condition and he has moved to help correct the situation with the Boston Police and Boston Public Schools.
“It is completely unacceptable for young children in the City of Boston to be exposed to needles of any kind, particularly while they are at school,” he said. “We have taken steps to protect our students from the harm of the opioid epidemic by increasing the capacity of the Mobile Sharps Unit, prioritizing substance use education and prevention, and training staff on how to properly dispose of any encountered needle.”
The Boston Public Schools did confirm that the student this fall was stuck by a dirty needle on Oct. 11 on the playground, as the school nurse told the Sun last week. He did receive the appropriate treatment, and was immediately assisted by the staff at the school.
A spokesman said they are very proactive in teaching students to ‘Stop, Turn and Tell’ if they see a needle. He also said they are going to work closely with the Mobile Sharps Team to make sure the encampment residents and drug users in the area do not continue to leave needles in the schoolyard.
“Additionally, custodial staff every morning searches the school property to dispose of any improperly discarded needles that may be present,” said Spokesman Dan O’Brien. “The school and BPS work collaboratively with the City’s Mobile Sharps Unit that performs regular sweeps at school surroundings to prevent student contact of any needles.”
The Mayor’s Office said it has doubled the capacity of the Sharps Unit in the past few years. That team does a sweep at the Orchard Gardens grounds every morning, they contended. That, however, was contradicted last week by school staff, who said the unit came the first few weeks of school, but hasn’t come back since.
The Mayor’s Office also noted that a new needle kiosk has been installed at Orchard Gardens over the last year to help with the stray needles.