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Phillips Community is focus of syringe disposal pilot program

By LINDSEY FENNER

The City of Minneapolis is piloting a project for syringe litter clean up and disposal, centered around the Phillips Community. The project is in response to the concerning amount of syringe litter Phillips residents encounter on a daily basis. The City began doing syringe litter sweeps in July and August along Bloomington Avenue, the Greenway, and adjacent alleys. Most recently, in November, the City installed ten Syringe Drop Boxes in and near Phillips to continue to address the issue. The boxes will be emptied weekly and can be easily reinstalled if the location needs to be adjusted. According to a city spokesperson, 800 syringes have been collected from the Drop Boxes between November 6 and November 27, with the majority collected at 25th and Bloomington. In addition, there will be a pilot of 30 syringe disposal buckets for use by businesses and non-profits. The project is currently funded by a grant from the National Association of County and City Health Officials, with a recommendation by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to include funding in the 2020 Minneapolis budget.

LINDSEY FENNER

The syringe disposal pilot was presented at a community meeting on November 2 at the Sabathani Community Center. Mayor Jacob Frey, District 4 Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley, and a variety of city and county staff spoke about the opioid epidemic and related public health concerns over improper syringe disposal in our community. Ward 9 Council member Alondra Cano, who represents East Phillips and Midtown Phillips, other staff did not appear to be present. Ward 6 Council member Abdi Warsame, who represents Phillips West and Ventura Village; and Hennepin County Board Chair Marion Greene both sent staff representatives. 

At the meeting, Tim Huber from Industrial Hygiene, the company contracted by Minneapolis to pick up and dispose of syringe litter,went over how to safely pick up and dispose of syringes. He reiterated that syringes should not go in the trash! Call 311 if you need help disposing of syringes safely. The City is also planning community drop off events to collect syringes that community members have gathered on their own.

Very few Phillips community members attended the meeting and they questioned why the meeting was held outside of the neighborhood most impacted by this project. In response to those concerns, the City is working on having another meeting scheduled in Phillips. Community members also raised concerns that data gathered from drop boxes and buckets would not accurately account for syringes gathered and disposed of privately by neighbors. Attendees also asked for better community outreach about both the syringe clean-up pilot and syringe safety in general, including information in multiple languages. If you have questions or feedback on the pilot or other questions about the City of Minneapolis’ opioid response, contact City staff member Suzanne Young at 612-358-4167 or via email at Suzanne.Young@minneapolismn.gov.

GOOGLE MAPS Syringe box locations

Safe syringe disposal is just one example of how the ongoing opioid epidemic has impacted everyone in the Phillips Community. As of November 18, Minneapolis had 1,360 reported overdoses, up from 954 for the entirety of 2018. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota is also experiencing a Hepatitis A outbreak, with the most high-risk individuals including those who use injection drugs or experience homelessness. Any long-lasting solutions to this difficult and wide-ranging issue will require us to come together as a community.

What is your story? How has the opioid epidemic impacted you? What solutions do you have? How can Phillips neighbors connect and support each other through this crisis? Please address comments or questions to Alley Communications, copydesk@alleynews.org or P.O. Box 7006 Mpls., MN 55407.

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