After a decades-long decline of heroin abuse in the U.S., many American cities — from Baltimore to Minneapolis — find themselves now battling an epidemic: Use of the drug nearly doubled between 2007 and 2013, according to the Economist.
Heroin use is also growing in suburban and other non-urban settings, but city governments are struggling to address the issue effectively.
The Portland Press Herald reports that the number of Maine residents seeking treatment for opiate addiction has more than tripled since 2010, rising to 3,463 individuals last year. Deaths from heroin overdose rose from seven to 57 between 2009 and 2014.
In response to the growing problem, Portland has placed needle disposal boxes in city parks. Lockable metal containers with compactors are now in four Portland parks in an effort to prevent disease transmission through discarded needles.
“It’s obviously a public safety issue for the city to make sure we are giving every opportunity to dispose of these needles safely,” Portland City Manager Jon Jennings told the Press Herald. “I will say that with the stepped-up enforcement … we have seen a sizable difference in the numbers of needles in the parks.”
Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.