September 24, 2008
The Allison Elementary school students were on recess at the nearby Civitan Park.
KXAN photojournalist Manuel Montana spotted another dirty needle at the park on Wednesday.
Texas is one of the few states in the nation that does not have a needle exchange program, where drug users can anonymously dispose of dirty needles.
Some said with thousands of injection drug users in the Austin area, the program may have prevented this from happening.
“I don’t want anybody to deal with this, it is horrible,” said parent Teresa Garcia-Guerra. “I have to sit and wait to know if my daughter is sick or not.”
Garcia-Guerra found out her daughter had been stuck with a dirty needle by another student on Tuesday. She is just one of several upset parents who is wondering if her child will be okay.
The kindergarten student found the dirty hypodermic needle inside one of the bathrooms here then went outside and stuck three other students with it.
The incident got the attention of Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez who has asked the city manager to look into what went wrong.
“[I’ve] directed the department director [and] the police chief to come up with a plan of action as soon as possible,” said Martinez.
Martinez also said despite several failed attempts to legalize needle exchange programs in Texas, the exchanges are working in several other states.
“People believe you are promoting or enabling more drug abuse by providing needle exchanges,” said Martinez. “I just think that is an archaic mentality we need to evolve beyond.”
Senator Kirk Watson agrees. He said last session he voted for Senate Bill 308, because, “I saw it as a way to protect public health save lives and decrease public costs,” said Watson. “I’m disappointed the bill didn’t finally pass the Legislature.”
There is no way of completely knowing if a needle exchange program would have prevented the person from leaving the dirty needle in the bathroom Tuesday but Council Member Martinez said, because of the incident, parks used by Austin schools will see some changes.
“If we need to have more surveillance there, that’s what we’ll do,” said Martinez.
There was a pilot needle exchange program in San Antonio, but the workers exchanging the needles were arrested by police.
Do you think the state of Texas should look into a needle exchange program?