Four sharps boxes for used syringes are currently installed in South Portland, but the locations may change, and more may be added, in the near future. Contributed / Zoe Brokos

South Portland is working with The Opportunity Alliance to bolster the city’s drug misuse and overdose prevention efforts, including the safe disposal of syringes.

“What we focus on is kind of education and awareness around overdose prevention,” said Zoe Brokos, a consultant for The Opportunity Alliance. “Really, trying to see how we can support programming that’s already happening by partnering with those communities’ substance abuse prevention programs.”

Brokos has been working with the city’s Board of Health, Police and Parks & Recreation departments, SoPo Unite and others.

“Groups that were not previously engaged in harm reduction work, such as South Portland’s Board of Health and Parks & Recreation, have become active participants and supporters of the program,” said Bridget O’Connor, health board chairperson.

The initiative also emphasizes the importance of appropriately disposing of used syringes. Four “sharps boxes” have been installed around the city, two in Knightville, one at Redbank and one at Bug Light Park.

“This spring, what we’ve been working on is kind of looking at the placement of the boxes, making sure they’re in areas that will be utilized, and (providing) some broader education in the community about them.”


Whether a syringe is being used for illegal drug use or medical treatment, the boxes are safer than disposing of them in the trash, which can pose a serious health risk.

“When needles are not properly discarded, those who are charged with cleaning up our community are at risk of needlestick injury,” O’Connor said. “Proper syringe disposal keeps the community safe from accidental needlesticks, preventing the transmission of viral hepatitis, HIV and other infections.”

Sharps boxes have been placed in nearby communities, including Portland and Westbrook. While they haven’t seen much use in South Portland so far, Brokos said they likely will see more frequent use when awareness grows.

“In communities like Lewiston and Portland, where they’ve been up for much longer, they are often checked weekly,” Brokos said. “The boxes themselves can hold up to 50 syringes and (we get) anywhere between 10 to 15 syringes on a weekly basis … that’s a good number.”

The city and The Opportunity Alliance, along with SoPo Unite and Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine, are sponsoring a community clean-up event from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 4.

Participants will meet at the Community Center to pick up equipment and then be deployed to clean-up sites, such as Mill Creek Park, Willard Beach and the Maine Mall area.


If participants come across used syringes, Brokos said, they will not be responsible for picking them up.

“We will have a designated team on Saturday who will be responsible for picking up and disposing of syringes, if any are found,” Brokos said. “The general public and our collaborating partners will be focusing on regular trash collection in a few areas in South Portland.”

Brokos also hopes to hold more clean-up events as the new program rolls on.

“It’s such a great time to give back to our community and come together with our partners,” she said. “It’s really simple but has a big impact.”

Comments are not available on this story.