Town makes NARCAN, fentanyl test strips available for free; Transfer Station sticks with stickers

At a recent meeting, Board of Health member Tom McMahon choked back tears as he talked about a high school friend who died after using a street drug. The board voted unanimously to provide free fentanyl test strips and NARCAN in town. Fentanyl is a deadly opioid that is sometimes added to marijuana and other drugs. The test strips can identify whether a drug is laced with fentanyl. NARCAN is an opioid overdose treatment.

“I’m trying not to get emotional,” McMahon said. “I grew up in this town and if you don’t think your kids are going to try something that could be laced with fentanyl, you’re wrong.

Fentanyl testing strips are now available for free at the Health Department and will soon be located in a mailbox attached to the building.

“Knowing that these [fentanyl strips and NARCAN] are available is critical. Just spread the word” he added. “Even if you think your kid is the greatest kid on earth, there’s still a chance.”

The test strips will be available in a special black mailbox outside the Health Department at 7 Widger Rd. beginning at the end of the week of Sept 25. To get NARCAN, people must go inside the Health Department and speak with the public health nurse there.

Sticking with stickers

Board members also discussed the problem of residents engaging in verbal and even physical abuse against Transfer Station employees, often when those employees ask if they have the required sticker. 

“It’s not a sticker problem, it’s a resident problem,” said member Joann Miller. “What we have to do is change the culture at the Transfer Station. “If anyone is going to come use this facility and chooses to treat our employees with anything less than respect, there’s got to be a consequence. Your sticker’s gone.”

Upcoming renovations to the Transfer Station include a new security camera system, which members hope will deter bad behavior in the future.

After hearing an update from Health Dir. Andrew Petty that a stickerless, camera system that would record users’ license plates and then fine people who haven’t paid is not feasible, the Board voted to move forward in January 2024 with a sticker-based system.  

“It’s an easier system,” Petty said. “Every vehicle that comes into facility should have a sticker on it in an easy to see location. We need an employee whose ony job is to look for stickers.”

Meanwhile, the town is waiting for final permits from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to begin its $1.5 million Transfer Station renovation.

“We want to get this out to bid and get the construction project started,” Petty said. “In a perfect world foundations are in before winter… and we can do a lot of construction during our winter period, which is our slower period.

“People need to remember there will be lots of disruptions,” Petty added. “This is going to have an impact on operations.”

Composting promotion

The Board also discussed a new promotion to encourage more households to compost. 

“For the next 50 new customers that sign up for a year of curbside collection with Black Earth, we will provide the collection bin at no cost,” Petty said.

“All you have to do is contact Black Earth and sign up for their curbside collection program and decide how large a collection bin you will need – either the 13-gallon or the four-gallon. Black Earth will contact us and we will deliver the collection bin.”

Flu shots

The Health Department will offer high-dose flu shots for residents 65 and older on Sept. 26 from 9-11 a.m. at the Judy and Gene Jacobi Community Center, 10 Humphrey St. Registration is required HERE. Call 781-631-6225 for registration help. For questions, call public health nurse Tracy Giarla at 781- 631-0212.

COVID update

Petty said there is an increase in COVID across the state.

“The numbers are up to the same levels as 2020,” he said. “We’re waiting for the CDC’s guidelines. If you’re sick, stay home. If you need rapid tests, we have them here (7 Widger Rd.) but they expire at the end of the month.

Leaf bag collection

Petty announced upcoming weeks for leaf bag collection as: weeks of Oct. 23, Nov. 6, Nov. 27, Dec. 11, April 22, May 13, June 3. No plastic bags or barrels will be collected or emptied. Only leaves and grass may be included (not sticks, etc.)

 Household hazardous waste day

Household hazardous waste day will be Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Transfer Station. Both Marblehead and Swampscott residents are invited to this event.  

The costs are: 0-3 gallons/pounds $30, 3-10 gallons/pounds $40, 10-25 gallons/pounds $60.

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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