A “sharps secure” needle collection box at Harbor View Memorial Park in Portland in 2015. Portland Press Herald file photo

LEWISTON — Due to an increase in the number of used syringes found on city property, the city is planning to partner with the CommUNITY Recovery network to install secure disposal boxes at multiple locations.

Lewiston will likely install a number of needle disposal boxes. Sun Journal file photo

The City Council gave an initial nod of approval during a workshop this week and is scheduled to take an official vote Sept. 3.

The needle, or “sharps,” disposal containers, like those installed in Portland in 2015, are meant to cut down on members of the public coming in contact with syringes that can transmit infectious diseases carried by the original users.

Police Chief Brian O’Malley said this week that his department, as well as Lewiston Public Works, is contacted multiple times per week to collect or dispose of needles found by residents in parks or other public areas.

O’Malley said the program would be “a good step” from a public safety perspective, and would cut down on time officers spend to respond, collect and dispose of material in the department’s own sharps container.

A City Council memo states the disposal container is in the lobby of the Police Department, but “this may not be widely known and some may not feel comfortable using it.”

The majority of the council was on board with the proposal this week, but there are still questions regarding the cost.

According to the program proposal from CommUNITY Recovery, a local network of organizations and law enforcement, the start-up costs would be $6,100. That would pay for purchasing the metal boxes and secure “mail back” containers and run the program the first year. The group’s estimate is that the program would cost $4,700 annually after the first year.

Catherine Ryder, CEO of Tri-County Mental Health Services and the project lead for CommUNITY Recovery, said the group is seeking funding through a combination of Gov. Janet Mills’ director of Opioid Response, private foundations, and CommUNITY Recovery network members.

“In subsequent years, we hope that funding will be approved by the city as well as existing funders,” she said.

Elected officials said they supported rolling out the program and reassessing after the first year.

While Councilor Jim Lysen said he would support further efforts, such as a needle exchange program, O’Malley said he did not “want the conversation to veer off. I see it as a safety issue,” he said.

Others had questions about the frequency of switching out receptacles as well as the security of the boxes.

City Administrator Ed Barrett said now that the city has voiced support, the funding will have to come together. Once the receptacles are up, he said, the city plans to track utilization in order to decide whether to provide city funding in year two.

Public Works Director Dale Doughty, whose department would be responsible for collecting the contents of the containers, also said he supports the program.

Ryder said the group is hoping Lewiston will mirror Portland’s effort, with Public Works responsible for collecting and disposing of the mail-back containers at a licensed disposal facility. Ryder said CommUNITY Recovery will provide the appropriate training to city employees.

Barrett said city staff will also discuss the program with staff in Portland.

The proposal from Ryder lists 15 recommended locations for the boxes, which she said was created in response to feedback from police.

The listed locations, which have not yet been finalized, include Riverside Park, Sunny Side Park, the Riverwalk Trail, Simard-Payne Memorial Park, Kennedy Park, Lionel Potvin Park, The Root Cellar, B Street Health Center, Knox Street Park, Webb’s Market, Poirier’s Market, Neighborhood Market, the Trinity Jubilee Center and the Center for Wisdom’s Women.

The Lewiston Area Public Health Committee has also endorsed the proposal, stating in a letter to the City Council that since Portland’s system began, “monthly reports have demonstrated an increased amount of syringes collected, as well as a reduced number of calls reporting syringes found in parks and sidewalks.”


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