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Rachel Moloney next to the needle kiosk outside The Dimock Center.
May 17, 2016

UMass Boston Nursing Student Has New Strategy for Safe Needle Disposal


  • Boston

Rachel Moloney will graduate later this month from the RN-BsN program in UMass Boston’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences. But, perhaps more than most, she understands that projects started in the classroom don’t end when the semester does.

Moloney, a registered nurse at The Dimock Center in Roxbury, spearheaded an effort to place a public needle kiosk outside the community health clinic as part of a project in her Community and Public Health Nursing class.

The kiosk is a place where used needles can be deposited safely and anonymously, reducing unsafe disposal and keeping children and other community members safe from needle sticks and possible infections.

“It’s a very provocative topic,” said Moloney, who has worked with HIV, hepatitis C, and addiction patients since 2012. “People think that you’re condoning drug use, but [clean needles are] a clear public health concern.”

The Dimock Center had been considering a needle kiosk outside its facility, but when Moloney got involved, the project “was just being held up. Nobody was really pulling the trigger and making it happen.”

After months of working with city and state health officials, a kiosk was finally lined up for delivery in February. But there was another roadblock when Moloney learned the kiosk was designed for indoor use.

A needle kiosk inside a health facility is not as effective, Moloney said, because there is a stigma attached to drug use that makes people unwilling to be seen disposing of used needles.

“There’s nothing punitive or judgmental about it. That’s our vibe here,” Moloney said. “We accept people where they are.”

With her class concluded, Moloney easily could have let the project fizzle out. But she continued working, and eventually secured an outdoor kiosk that was donated and installed by the Boston Public Health Commission.

Moloney will be discussing the topic in two major venues in the coming months, speaking to the International Nurses Society on Addictions and the 2016 National Ryan White Conference on HIV Care and Treatment. And she has her sights set on expanding the kiosk program.

“Hopefully this is the first of many kiosks in the city of Boston, to put them in places where the needles are being left behind,” Moloney said.

Read more about Moloney’s project in the Boston Herald.