LEWISTON, Maine — Lewiston will join the growing list of cities across the nation installing safe syringe disposal drop boxes after city councilors voted 4-2 in favor of a proposal Tuesday night.
The proposal will add 15 'safe syringe disposal' drop boxes around the city through grant money provided by Tri County Mental Health Services.
These containers offer a safe alternative for those looking to get rid of dirty needles, many times used to inject drugs.
"There are a lot of calls for folks that have had overdoes, repeat overdoses… folks that they have found in different areas of the city, needles that they have come across in puclic areas," Jessica Michaud said. Michaud is the Chief Program Officer for Tri County Mental Health Services. "So, this is one low barrier piece that we could really make a difference in providing a service to the area… where if folks aren’t ready to seek treatment, they can at least, you know, expose of the articles they are using."
The proposal came after a first responders and other community leaders heard on a daily about discarded needles in parks and other areas families frequent.
Those at Tri County believe sites like this not only decreases the chance of others being exposed to contaminated needle but, when paired with other services, increase the chances of those with a substance abuse disorder of getting the help they need.
A handful of residents at Tuesday nights meeting spoke on the issue. It came with mixed reviews, including questions like what kind of message do these receptacles send to children or those visiting the town? They felt this would only enable an already growing problem.
Others disagreed completely, saying while we need to be 'tough' on offenders, this is really about public safety.
A majority of councilors agreed this is a step in the right direction and said there is no harm in trying if the results could mean saving lives.
"This is strictly for disposal, it's in areas where we have seen needles on the ground... where children and animals and other folks are interacting with them on a daily basis and this gives us a safe space to dispose of them," Lewiston's Mayor, Kristen Cloutier said. "And I think it's important to remember that this is really a pilot program, this gives us the opportunity to see if this is working... and if it is, we keep going, if it isn't, we dial back."
The list of 15 locations is expected to be re-evaluated to make sure the locations are the best spots for the receptacles. Mayor Cloutier says first responders and other community leaders will have the final say on that. A final list is expected in the coming weeks.