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Retailers try blue lights to deter drug use Nation’s opioid crisis spurs effort; studies suggest the bulbs make it hard to find a vein from overdoses in public bathrooms of fast-food restaurants, big-box stores and other retailers. “It can very easily go unnoticed until somebody else wants to use that restroom,” he said. “Other patrons realize they can’t get in, the manager opens up and we find people deceased.” At some Turkey Hill locations in hard-hit neighborhoods, store workers would often find used needles or even people slumped over from an overdose, said Matt Dorgan, the chain’s asset protection manager. “We realized we need to do something to protect our associates and our customers,” he said. The blue lights were part of a broader set of security measures at Turkey Hill that included brighter lighting, new window signage to make store exteriors more visible from inside, and security training for store workers. More than six months after the chain began using the blue lights in as many as 20 stores, “we’re not finding hardly anything anymore,” Dorgan said. “It’s a pretty dramatic reduction. We haven’t had a single overdose.” Some health experts suggest other types of intervention. Installation of needle disposal containers can help protect employees, the public and people who use drugs, while stall doors that swing outward can make it easier to reach someone who has overdosed.

BY MICHAEL RUBINKAM associated Press

WILKES-BARRE, PA. • Colored bulbs cast an eerie blue glow in the restroom of a convenience store where people who inject heroin and other drugs have been seeking the relative privacy of the stalls to shoot up. The blue lights are meant to discourage people from using drugs in store bathrooms by making it more difficult for them to see their veins. It’s an idea that has been around for years but is getting a fresh look as a result of the nation’s opioid epidemic. “The hardest-core opiate user still wants to be accurate. They want to make sure the needle goes in the right spot,” said Read Hayes, a University of Florida researcher and director of the Loss Prevention Research Council, a retail industry-backed group that is looking at the lights’ effectiveness. The purpose of the blue light is to “disrupt that process” and force people to go somewhere else to take drugs, he said. Turkey Hill Minit Markets, a 260-store chain based in Lancaster, is one of two convenience store chains and a supermarket chain working with the loss prevention group to field-test the blue bulbs. Hayes, whose group devises methods to combat theft and crime at stores, said the study is still in its infancy, but that initial feedback from stores that


Turkey Hill Minit Markets installed blue lights in the public restrooms of its convenience store in WilkesBarre, Pa., shown Friday. The chain has installed the blue light bulbs in as many as 20 stores in hopes of discouraging drug use by making it harder for people to see their veins.

have used them has been positive. Earlier studies have questioned the lights’ deterrent effect, with people who use opioids telling researchers they’d shoot up in blue light if it meant avoiding withdrawal symptoms. Many public health experts oppose the practice, saying blue lights make people more likely to hurt them-

selves and stigmatize those in the grips of addiction. And, for people accustomed to injecting themselves, there are ways around the lights. Someone in withdrawal who obtains heroin is “going to want to use as soon as possible, even if the location is not optimal,” said Brett Wolfson-Stofko at the Na-

tional Development & Research Institutes, who has studied drug use in public bathrooms. Store owners say they have to do something. In Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County, where Turkey Hill has installed blue lights at a store in Wilkes-Barre, Coroner William Lisman said people have died

The legality of Delta’s ban on pit bull service dogs is questioned WASHINGTON POST

Amid growing scrutiny of animals in airplane cabins, several airlines have unveiled tightened policies aimed at limiting untrained pets or unusual species on flights. The changes, they have said, are driven by safety considerations and intended to ensure that service or emotionalsupport animals are traveling only with passengers who have disabilities.

Delta went further last week, announcing Wednesday that it would prohibit all “pit bull-type dogs” as service or support animals, in a move it called “the direct result of growing safety concerns following recent incidents in which several employees were bitten.” The airline told the Associated Press on Friday that two employees were bitten by a pit bull traveling as an emotionalsupport animal this month. But the announcement faced

swift backlash from advocates for pit bulls, as well as from some service dog organizations and disability advocates who said they believe the Delta ban runs afoul of federal laws. “First and foremost, it’s about people. Delta is discriminating against people,” said Regina Lizik of the Animal Farm Foundation in New York, which trains shelter dogs that have been labeled pit bulls to be service dogs for people with disabilities. “When Delta

Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities, and they enjoy broad access to public places and transportation on the ground, where the Americans With Disabilities Act applies; emotionalsupport animals, which are not necessarily trained, do not. The Justice Department, which enforces the ADA, has said that municipalities’ breed-specific bans do not apply to service animals of those breeds.

or anyone puts out a regulation like this that dictates what kind of dog can be a service dog, they are reducing access for someone with a disability.” The Department of Transportation also cast doubt on the legality of the policy on Friday evening, saying in a statement that “a limitation based exclusively on breed of the service animal is not allowed under the Department’s Air Carrier Access Act regulation.”

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