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Grim maps show how discarded needles litter ‘Methadone Mile’

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No area of Boston is plagued by discarded drug needles like the so-called "Methadone Mile," a stretch of blighted blocks along Massachusetts Avenue in the South End, Roxbury, and Dorchester where the use of heroin and other opioids is rampant.

City data on recent constituent reports of discarded needles spotted in public places — on streets, sidewalks, alleys, and parks — demonstrates how the toll of drug use and the opioid epidemic has been widespread, leaving virtually no sections of the city unscathed.

But records also show Methadone Mile, an area recently chronicled by the Globe, has been particularly troublesome.


The maps below illustrate that grim fact:

Below is an image of a heat map of the same data. The map was made using a tool on the city's data website.

The city in late May of 2015 launched the Mobile Sharps Collection Team, a group dedicated to removing discarded drug needles. The group has made it a priority to clean needles from Methadone Mile, or as city officials said they prefer to call it, "Recovery Road."

City data shows that reports of stray needles — which can be submitted to the city by phone and online — have risen steadily since mid-May of 2015, the earliest figures available.

In that month, just 11 reports were made to the city, data show. By comparison, 209 such reports were filed last month, the highest on record.

Through Tuesday, 184 reports of drug needles had been made in September.

Officials said this week that the team has collected 15,000 needles since its inception.

They attributed the rising number of reports to more people contacting the city about the issue — a development they encouraged.


Doing so allows the Mobile Sharps Collection Team, as well as outreach workers and other city employees who regularly survey key areas, "to quickly respond and remove these needles and keep our community safer," said Ché Knight, spokeswoman for the Boston Public Health Commission.

"Additionally, Boston provides critical addictions and recovery services to people in need," she wrote in an e-mail. "Opioid addiction is a national epidemic, and Boston is at the forefront of treatment efforts, which results in more people coming to Boston from across the region seeking care."

City officials they have taken numerous other steps to confront the opioid epidemic, including bolstering support for recovery and outreach services and working with partners across the state to connect people with treatment opportunities.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mrochele