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Louisville installs syringe disposal boxes in three public parks

A safe syringe disposal box in Shelby Park on November 22, 2022.

Louisville Metro’s public health department has installed syringe disposal boxes in three parks around the city to limit the spread of bloodborne diseases and reduce the number of discarded needles found on city streets. 

The bright red metal bins are now in use in Portland, Shelby and Boone Square parks. They look something akin to mail drop boxes with bio-hazard symbols and information on the city’s syringe services program. 

“The safety of our youngest population is crucial,” Metro Council President David James, a Democrat from District 6, said in a press release. “This is just another step in the right direction to protect children, families, and all park users from syringes in parks.”  

Officials with the Department of Public Health and Wellness say the boxes are an extension of the city’s harm reduction strategy, which began in 2015 with a program that provides clean syringes and safe disposal to people who inject drugs intravenously. 

Community Health Administrator Ben Goldman said the additional disposal sites are an evidence-based intervention that helps reduce the risk of diseases including HIV and hepatitis C . 

“Harm reduction is about meeting people where they are and providing resources that help keep people healthy and safe,” Goldman said in a press release. 

Public health and Metro Parks officials identified the three parks as places where staff routinely find syringes, and their efforts were supported by Metro Council members who represent those areas and the Shelby Park Neighborhood Association.  

A five-year study on syringe disposal boxes conducted in Montreal found up to a 98% reduction in stray needles. The study concluded the boxes were a rapid, economical and “highly effective” intervention to reduce discarded needles.

Communities including Huntington, W. Va., Philadelphia, Seattle and New York also use safe disposal boxes. 

Kentucky had the second-highest drug overdose mortality rate in the country behind West Virginia at 49.2 per 100,000 people in 2020, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Syringe services programs like Louisville’s are community-based strategies that help reduce the risk of infectious diseases and link people to treatment for substance abuse. Nearly 30 years of research has found these programs improve health outcomes and do not increase illegal drug use or crime, according to the CDC.   

Public Health and Wellness recommends that people who find used syringes take precautions in disposing of them including wearing gloves, avoiding the metal end and safely disposing of it in a syringe disposal box. 

Louisville’s syringe disposal boxes are located at: 

  • LMPHW headquarters, 400 E. Gray Street
  • Outside the Salvation Army, at S. Brook and E. Breckinridge Street
  • Shelby Park, 600 E. Oak Street
  • Portland Park, 640 N. 27th Street
  • Boone Square Park, 1935 Rowan Street


Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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