Some parents in Boston are now carrying Narcan over fears that needles left in local parks have the potential to hurt the children who play there.
On Wednesday morning, a handful of mothers, representing a mom’s group with hundreds of members, took those concerns directly to Mayor Michelle Wu during her weekly Coffee Hour.
Parents like Elena Clemow and Lisa Varela said they want city leaders to know that trips to Puopulo Playground and Christopher Columbus Park, among other North End family areas, have gone from opportunities for fun in the sun to anxiety and alert.
“I looked around more and that’s when I found a needle covered in blood,” said Clemow.
In April, she was in Puopolo Park with her daughter and caregiver when they came across a used syringe.
The young girl’s nanny frantically kicked it away as the toddler nearly crawled within inches of it.
Varela, another member of the mom’s group has heard similar stories and has resorted to carrying Narcan every morning when she takes her son to the playground. She’s transformed her diaper bag into a mini “medical triage” kit, complete with medical gloves, too.
“If we don’t look out for our kids nobody else is going to,” she said. “The city doesn’t seem to be responding well to our outcries.”
From Jan. 1 through the end of April, Boston’s Needle Pick Up Program has collected 2,405 of the items. Of those, 74 needles were found in the North End and 13 near Langone Park.
“As we have put in place more programming and expanded our staff to be able to have outreach to individuals who need housing and services, it’s been very clear to us that this is not just about one part of the city,” the mayor told NBC10 Boston.
Wu said drug prevention efforts are underway and shared that the city has a walk-through planned Thursday to get boots on the ground for areas in dire need of attention.
A few of the mothers present during the event shared discussions they’ve heard about the possibility of adding disposal bins for dirty syringes near playgrounds — an idea they are not on board with.
“What kind of message does that send?” Clemow questioned.
Clemow and Varela both want to see lights added to North End playgrounds and parks because they believe the spaces are attractive to unhoused city residents after dark.
Another parent, Gabrielle Harvey, added her frustrations about the process of getting city employees to the sites when needle sightings are reported.
“So far we’ve been told to call 311 which can take several hours to pick up the needles, but that doesn’t solution the problem long term,” she said.
Wu acknowledged the public’s frustration about the persistent issue, and said while the city makes progress, it is imperative families continue using 311 to report any neighborhood concerns, especially exposed or used needles.