Contentious neighborhood meeting not best way to proceed with clean syringe exchange location for opioid addicts

Editor’s Note: The City of Peoria has indefinitely postponed the Saturday March 10 opening of the clean syringe exchange program at 1411 NE Adams Street. An official stated the building cannot be occupied until there is further clarification of the zoning use and the city has inspected the space for building and fire code compliance.

BY CLARE HOWARD

A textbook example of how NOT to open a clean syringe exchange program unfolded Wednesday evening at the GAR Hall on Hamilton Boulevard.

Detweiller Marina Neighborhood Association invited Jolt Foundation to a community conversation. Topic of discussion was recent publicity that Jolt was looking at a site in the neighborhood to open a syringe exchange program after having to withdraw from a location in the NAACP offices on MacArthur Highway due to neighborhood objections.

About 50 residents attended the GAR Hall meeting. Speaking on behalf of Jolt was a doctor living in Dunlap, a community educator living in Delavan and a retired radiologist. They sold the concept for more than an hour, vacillating between science, morality and marketing only to drop the bombshell: a lease had already been signed and the syringe exchange was opening in three days.

The home owners had never been consulted nor informed . . . despite past experience and past warnings from several city council members that building neighborhood consensus is critical.

This was clearly not a meeting to discuss, inform and build consensus. It was ramming a fait accompli down the throat of an already fragile, struggling neighborhood. Anyone who objected was dismissed on moral grounds – in at least one case with an insulting retort.

Everyone in the room that night recognized the need and wanted a clean syringe exchange program to succeed. But the process in this case was arrogant, disrespectful, condescending and dishonest. That does not bode well.

Jolt clearly has good intentions, born from the heartbreak of a mother losing her son to a drug overdose, but perhaps Jolt is not the right driver for this program, at least not at this stage.

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