Things got a little safer around Miami County after a group of organizers helped install the first drop-off kiosk designed with the safe disposal of hypodermic needles in mind.

“We have been working on this since August of last year,” Antonia Sawyer told the Tribune on the morning of Oct. 30.

Sawyer, who heads up the organization Ship Happens which works on solving problems surrounding addiction, said she started working in 2019 with Peru’s then-Mayor Gabriel Greer as well as the Peru Police Department, the United Way of Miami County and the Miami County Community Foundation to bring what are often referred to as “sharps kiosks” to the area.

That Friday morning, Sawyer was at the city’s Street Department building, preparing to head to the first location near the east end of Canal Street to watch a ceremonial first drop of syringes into the secured red box.

“Ideally we wanted them to be able to just pull off and drop them in,” Peru Street Commissioner Adam Sheets said as he walked along the street toward the curve near the intersection of East and Canal streets where the box now sits.

It was there that the group gathered to take photos and watch Deb Close, CEO of Dukes Hospital, make that first drop.

A news release from the group later that day said the committee formed by members of the involved organizations wanted to “identify an effective and sustainable means to protect the public health of all residents in the community.”

Providing an accessible method of “proper syringe disposal” was the way to do that, they decided.

With the new kiosk installed, city workers run less of a risk of being stuck by syringes – something that happens about once a year, according to Sheets – hidden in other trash items.

Now workers can simply unlock the kiosk, pull out a plastic bin and seal it with a locking top to take it in for proper disposal.

“By properly disposing of used syringes, we can decrease residential exposure to Hepatitis A, B, C, HIV/AIDS, and MRSA, as well as protect street department workers from accidental needle sticks. All of which directly impact residents,” the release said.

“This is a wonderful program to utilize for those who use syringes due to chronic diseases such as diabetes, require hormone injections or vitamin deficiency injections, or utilize syringes for other purposes,” Sawyer said in the release.

Sawyer and Debi Wallick, executive director of the United Way of Miami County, said they have secured funding for a second kiosk already and hope to install a third somewhere in the county by the end of 2021.