On Sunday, May 6, U.S. Postal Service volunteers will make an unusual delivery in selected Twin Cities neighborhoods: An empty pill bottle at each residential mailing address. In the west metro, all residential addresses in ZIP codes 55411 and 55422 will be a part of the exercise, so people in parts of north Minneapolis, Crystal, Golden Valley, and Robbinsdale will receive the delivery. People who receive the pill bottle do not need to do anything—just recycle the bottle.
The event is part of “Operation Medicine Delivery,” a test designed to see how fast postal teams can deliver medicine to homes in a simulated public health emergency. As part of the exercise, postal volunteers escorted by law enforcement officers will deliver a simulated supply of medication to approximately 37,000 residences. Each household will get an empty pill bottle and a flyer explaining the purpose of the exercise.
Delivery will occur in ZIP codes 55101, 55102, 55411 and 55422 in Saint Paul, Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Golden Valley, and Crystal. The May 6 event is only a test, and there is no reason to believe an emergency is imminent. Each household involved in the exercise will receive a flyer in the mail in the days leading up to the exercise, so residents know what to expect.
Agencies participating in the exercise include the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Minnesota Department of Health, ECHO Minnesota, and local public health and law enforcement agencies.
In this exercise, government agencies will test the postal plan to help communities prepare for and respond to various public health emergencies. For example, if there were a bioterrorist attack using anthrax, people would need to get started on antibiotics with 48 hours. Local public health agencies would set up special clinics to get people medicine, and they may also use postal delivery to quickly distribute medicine. An ample supply of medication has been stockpiled for use in emergencies. These medications would be provided to the public free of charge.
The idea of using postal delivery teams to distribute preventive medication during an emergency has already been tested, on a limited basis, in Boston, Philadelphia, and Seattle. However, this is the first metro area to recruit a full complement of postal participants, and set up a fully developed postal delivery system.
More information about Operation Medicine Delivery is available at the MDH website at www.health.state.mn.us/oep/postal.html. Emergency, Community, Health, and Outreach (ECHO) Minnesota also has a variety of information on the exercise available in multiple languages through phone recordings, a video, and printed materials which are available at www.echominnesota.org (or by calling 888-883-8831 after April 11).