Minneapolis launches needle drop-off sites

syringe drop
Syringe drop

City public health officials are establishing 10 syringe deposit sites in South Minneapolis in an effort to keep neighborhoods and parks free of used needles.

Minneapolis launched the syringe pilot program in early November, when two deposit stations were placed along Bloomington Avenue.

Ultimately there will be 10 sites established, mostly near Bloomington Avenue between Lake Street and Franklin Avenue. Four will be at city parks: Currie, East Phillips, Franklin Steele Square and Peavy Field. The city hopes to install two at to-be-determined locations along the Midtown Greenway, though the process is being delayed as staff work through agreements with Hennepin County and the railroad authority.

The public health department began thinking more about needle litter during the mass encampment of unsheltered people in South Minneapolis last year, according to Noya Woodrich, deputy public health commissioner. Opioid overdoses, mostly stemming from injected drug use, rose 233% from 286 in 2015 to 954 in 2018. The eight-gallon drop-off boxes have a deposit hole large enough for a syringe and small litter and will be emptied weekly.

Needle drop-off programs exist in Boston, New York City and San Francisco and have decreased syringe litter, Woodrich said. Minneapolis public health officials were in contact with those cities as they developed the pilot program.