ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — While deputies said overdose numbers have dropped, the opioid epidemic continues to plague Rochester’s North Clinton neighborhood where sellers and buyers converge.
Baden Park on Upper Falls Boulevard is where several sports teams practice, residents walk or bike, and children play. But it’s also been a wasteland of used needles.
The park hosts a baseball field for youth teams. One coach told News 8 she’s had enough of having to come to each game or practice an hour early to clean up the mess. She said the community should be working together to find a solution.
Katelyn Plonczynski Figueroa has been coaching in Rochester Hispanic Youth Baseball League for a few years and says she loves it – but there’s been one thing bothering her.
She said, “We’ve been finding tons and tons of needles on our Baden Street Park, so no longer is it just glass trash or the grass not being cut… it’s now needles.”
She told us she‘s contacted the city several times to find out who’s cleaning the parks and how often. Plonczynski Figueroa said they told her they clean it twice a week, but she said, frankly, she’s not seeing a difference.
Santos Cruz, the coordinator for the league, said his main concern in running the league is the kids’ safety.
“You signed up to teach the kids how to play keep them off the streets and keep them busy throughout the summer and then I have to explain to my coaches that we’re doing more than just that,” added Cruz.
He also said the league has seen a decrease in participation over the years, due to parents’ safety concerns. At their peak, they had 250 kids and now they only have 70. They’ve also seen a decline in volunteers for coaches due to the extra responsibility of having to come early to clean up the park.
Cruz said he thinks there are so many needles in part because Trillium Health gives out clean ones for free. Trillium Director of Harm Reduction Services Julie Ritzler Shelling told us their goal is to provide new sterile needles while people are using drugs so when they’re ready to stop using, they can live a long and healthy life.
“We very much realize that we contribute to some of the syringes that are out there,” said Ritzler-Shelling. “We’re not the sole supplier of all the syringes that are in the community. We absolutely can’t be. There are many more people that are using substances that are connected to us but we do want to be part of the solution.”
Ritzler-Shelling said there used to be a one-for-one syringe exchange program where people would have to bring in their used needles to get new ones.
She told News 8 this ended at Trillium years ago because it wasn’t being effective in its goal to provide safe options for everyone. She said some people weren’t comfortable keeping their old needles or even showing up to turn them in. So this new approach is actually more effective in getting people to help.