By Carson Gerber
PERU — Peru officials on Thursday placed a second syringe drop-off kiosk in the city as part of a grassroots program that has gained statewide attention.
“Preventing Pricks” launched in October when the first kiosk was placed at the corner of Canal and East streets on the city’s far east side near the Wabash River.
Debbie Wallick, executive director of United Way of Miami County who helped launch the program, said that since then, residents have dropped off around 230 pounds of syringes. That equals about 7,000 needles.
Now, a second kiosk has been placed at Stowaway Storage, located behind Walgreens on North Broadway, after the owner donated a piece of property on which to place the unit.
“We’re really excited about it,” Wallick said. “It’s encouraging to know that the program is working.”
Talk of installing syringe drop-off sites started in 2019, when city and county officials launched the Miami County Health Initiative Committee.
Wallick said the goals of the program are to increase the proper disposal of syringes, decrease sharing and reuse of syringes, decrease needle pricks on street department workers, and also reduce police reports of improper disposal of syringes.
United Way also set its own strategic goal to use the kiosks to decrease the risk factors related to substance abuse by 25% by 2025.
Antonia Sawyer, founder of the local nonprofit ShipHappens who serves on the health committee, said another goal was to reduce the spread of Hepatitis C in the county, which has a higher rate of the disease than the state average.
She said that all the kiosks are ADA compliant, and have been placed at locations where residents can simply drive up and drop off the needles from their vehicles.
Peru City Council President Betsy Edwards-Wolfe said during last month’s council meeting that the kiosks aren’t just for people using heroin or other drugs. She said many of the syringes come from residents with diabetes who want to safely dispose of their needles.
Now, the success of the kiosks has gained the attention of other counties who want to replicate the program. Sawyer said they are currently working on creating a toolkit with a detailed breakdown on how they created the program so other counties and cities can start their own.
She said they have also presented the project to the Indiana Rural Health Association and to Indiana University’s Center for Rural Engagement.
Wallick said now that the second kiosk has been placed, they already have plans to put up a third at the Miami County Waste Management District near the intersection of U.S. 24 and U.S. 31. She said the unit will be set outside the fenced area so anyone can pull up to use it.
Shelly Sheneman, who serves on the health committee, said the program has helped improve the health and wellness of the community, and has gained the city and county some positive attention for its effort.
“This has kind of put Miami County on the map,” she said.