More than 70 volunteers worked to clean up two Near Eastside neighborhoods Tuesday with the goal to raise awareness about properly disposing syringes.
The Marion County Public Health Department launched the Safe Syringe Access and Support program in April in response to the county’s increase in hepatitis C cases. Intravenous drug use is a major cause to the spead of the virus, county officials say.
The program’s manager, Madison Weintraut, says it’s a harm reduction initiative.
“We bring clean supplies for injection drug use to the people that need them where they need them, and that’s with the goal of reducing infectious diseases,” Weintraut says. “With that, we’re also connecting people who use drugs to needed resources and other healthcare services.”
Tuesday’s cleanup took place near the program’s mobile units at Brookside Community Church, on North Olney Street, and The Damien Center, on North Arsenal Avenue.
Volunteers hope the new program reduces syringes left on the streets.
If a syringe is found, Weintraut says picking it up is as simple as not touching the pointy end, but people can call the health department if they aren’t comfortable doing so.
She added that when cleaning up, it’s important to put syringes in a container that can’t be punctured, like an empty bottle that can then go in the trash.
Michelle Shippy, who works in the chronic disease department, says cleaning up is empowering for communities.
“There’s always a huge importance in making a community look good, clean and healthy, and that’s our goal,” Shippy says. “We just want to be an example and good role models.”
Ebony Barney, Program Manager at the Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis says they don’t necessarily expect to find syringes, but the clean up is about helping out.
“It’s good to be out here and to know is it a problem? Do we see anything? And if not, that would be really good feedback,” Barney says.
Weintraut says of the 30 years programs like have existed in the United States, no one has gotten HIV or Hepatitis C from picking up a syringe in the community.