Pubdate: Mon, 13 Feb 2017
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The London Free Press
Author: Randy Richmond
Page: A3


Volunteers clean up 1,000 discards a year in a city weighing
supervised drug injection site.

Tom Cull has more than 1,000 reasons - discarded needles - for London
to support a supervised drug injection site.

"We pick them up under bridges, along the watercourse, on the (river)
banks, in parks," he says.

Once a month, from the beginning of April to the start of winter, he
and his crew of volunteers with the Thames River Rally pick up garbage
along the river in London.

By the end of the cleanup season, he'll have about 16 special needle
bins full of discards, more than 1,000.

"We had one cleanup where we cleaned up 300 in one spot," Cull says,
and that was in only a three-hour session.

"It's a significant number. It says to me that a supervised injection
site could greatly reduce the number of needles that we are picking up
in parks and along the river course."

Health officials last Wednesday released a feasibility study of
supervised injection services in London.

That report focused on the willingness of people who inject drugs to
use a site or sites, and the general preferences of community agencies
that would be involved in helping to set up the service.

Unsupervised injected-drug use in London is related to high rates of
HIV infection and hepatitis C, as well as overdoses and overdose
deaths, the report said.

At the release of the report, politicians and other community leaders
also noted how supervised sites could increase public safety, in part
because of the problem of discarded needles in public places.

A supervised site would allow drug users to inject indoors with clean
needles and medical care available, and keep discarded needles from
the public.

But there's more to discarded needles, Cull said.

"This feasibility report doesn't talk about the environmental impact
of medical waste, which is what this is," said Cull. "So I think that
going forward, as we have this conversation, as a community we should
be talking about the environmental impacts that overlap with the
social issues that we're also trying to address."

Cull has spent the past few days getting ready for next clean-up

The river parkway has plenty of needle bins and the city has an active
needle exchange program, Cull said.

"It's just quite clear the status quo isn't working in terms of
recovering these needles."
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