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November 30, 2007
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Free way to dispose of needles

Area citizens who use syringes for various medical treatments are now just a drive away from being part of a revolutionary program designed to ensure used needles are disposed of properly.And the best part? It's free - as long as you can prove residency in Incline or Crystal Bay.Sharps Compliance, Inc., a medical company from Houston, Texas, is partnering with Incline Village General Improvement District Waste Not program to offer Incline Village and Crystal Bay residents the Sharps Disposal by Mail System, a system that gives residents who use home injectibles a way to properly dispose of them for free.The system includes a sharps container, a government-approved return sharps mailback box, a protective 3-milliliter bag liner and a four-part simplified tracking form. In short, citizens can attain the kit, free of charge, fill it with used needles, and then mail it out, also for free, to the Sharps Compliance center in Houston, where the needles are destroyed."This is a great program for people who use home injectibles, a great way for people to be able to properly dispose of their needles," said Gene Brockman, Incline resident and IVGID Board of Trustees vice chair.Brockman has diabetes and uses syringes for insulin shots. He said the new program is convenient because it informs people of the right way to dispose of used needles at a free rate. Another positive, he said, is that the program cuts off access to people without medical conditions who may be on the look out for new or used needles.

"There's always the question if someone is not supposed to be using needles," Brockman said. "And this is the best way to ensure that it doesn't happen."How it worksIncliners can pick up a kit at Village Compounding Pharmacy, which is located at 898 Tanager Street. They will need to show proof of residency by supplying a copy of a current Incline Village garbage statement or driver's license. Brant Skanson, owner at Village Compounding Pharmacy, said the pharmacy usually has anywhere from three to 10 mailing kits in stock at any time. More can be ordered if demand increases."We just need something that confirms they are residents. That's how we are able to gatekeep the program," Skanson said.Once the kit is purchased, used sharps are placed inside the container for safe storage. When full, the container is closed, bagged and sealed inside its original packaging. Residents then return the postage pre-paid box to their mail carrier or nearest post office. The box is delivered by the U.S. Postal Service to the Sharps Compliance processing center in Houston, where both the sharps container and its packaging are destroyed.

Sharps documents the receipt, weight and destruction of each container and its contents of used syringes. Electronic proof of destruction is made available and can be accessed by calling Sharps Compliance, Inc. Customer Support at 1-800-772-5657.Jack McGurk, a spokesman for Sharps Compliance, Inc., said the program has been implemented in about 20 communities across the nation."I would say it's probably the most convenient and a seamless sharps program; it's the best way to make sure no one gets hurt," McGurk said. "Plus, there's a large percentage of home-generated syringe users that don't have transportation. And, there's also the confidentiality so people don't know you use syringes."What makes it so convenient is the boxes the containers come in are considered priority mail, so if a resident doesn't have transportation to the post office, he or she can call the post office to pick up the package, also free of charge.Normally, the kit would cost residents $21.16, Skanson said.However, Henry Gastelum, a Waste Not representative for IVGID, said Waste Not is providing the program, including shipping and handling fees via the U.S. Postal Service, free for all Incline/Crystal Bay residents.

"The way it works, is they go to the pharmacy and pick up the box, you would order it like anything else," Gastelum said. "And we get billed - we will take care of the whole cost, shipping and postage, too."According to the Sharps Disposal Inc. Web site, the Sharps Disposal by Mail System represents the first complete disposal system pioneered for simplified management of used needles, syringes and other small quantities of bio hazardous waste. The system is the ideal disposal solution for medical waste discovered or generated by both facilities as well as individual patients who self-inject therapeutic drugs.McGurk said Incline was chosen for the program because Waste Not plays a prominent role in recycling campaigns in the area. It also was chosen, he said, because of Incline's demographics."Incline Village is an area where you have a lot more mature people than say in areas like Reno and Sparks," McGurk said. "We definitely want to roll out in the future with the program to other areas like Reno and Sparks, but this was decided as the best place to start."Something important to remember, McGurk said, is people with diabetes such as Brockman aren't the only people who can benefit from this program."With the medication out there these days, with more and more biotech drugs, there's stuff we didn't even know about years ago," he said. "For example, for women struggling with infertility, they might inject themselves a couple times a day to stimulate the process. This program can affect a lot of people."

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Dec 1, 2007 06:03PM Published Nov 30, 2007 03:00AM Copyright 2007 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.