Pubdate: Thu, 01 Feb 2018
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Johanna Weidner
Page: B1


WATERLOO REGION - Regional councillors thanked the public health
department for its harm reduction efforts, but said more needs to be
done to ensure used needles aren't ending up in public spaces.

"I do appreciate the efforts of public health," Cambridge Mayor Doug
Craig said at a council meeting on Tuesday. "But we still have a problem."

The number of needles distributed through Waterloo Region's needle
syringe program has been rising steadily in recent years, reaching a
peak in 2017, according to a report presented this week.

While the number of returned needles is also on the rise and reached
its highest rate last year, still less than half are returned to
program sites.

In 2017, 700,758 needles were handed out, and 323,237, or 46 per cent,
were returned.

Five new outdoor disposal kiosks that are accessible any time were
installed in June as part of the region's focus on improving safe
needle disposal.

A pilot project for a peer-based needle recovery outreach project is
also slated to start in February, and another is planned for outdoor
wall-mounted containers for sharps in partnership with the Bridges
shelter in Cambridge.

Coun. Sean Strickland called the rise in the numbers of needles
distributed "alarming."

Karen Quigley-Hobbs, the region's director of infectious disease,
dental and sexual health, said the increase reflects the changes in
drug-use patterns, specifically rising opioid and crystal
methamphetamine use.

The current opioid crisis has been marked by rising rates of addiction
and overdose, which has put more demand on local harm-reduction
services and paramedics.

Opioid overdose related calls to paramedic services are up
dramatically. The number of calls in 2017 was around 800 - about
double compared to 2016 and four times more than 2015.

In 2013, 363,451 needles were distributed. That increased by about
100,000 a year to reach 546,464 in 2015. In 2016 the total jumped to

The number of needles returned hovered at about only 100,000 in 2013
and 2014 - equal to about one-quarter of the total distributed. In
2015, that more than doubled to 244,550 or 45 per cent.

Strickland urged more work to curb improper needle

"I think we need a much more comprehensive approach," he said. "We
need to put sharps disposals in places where people are using."

Not all needles are returned to program sites, Quigley-Hobbs said.
Disposal containers are available across the region, including in
pharmacies and businesses. "There are a multitude of options for
proper disposal," she said. "Generally speaking, most people want to
dispose properly."

She said public health is working with bylaw officers to get a better
handle on the reports of needles found by members of the public.

Coun. Geoff Lorentz, chair of the community services committee, asked
if limiting the number of needles handed out was an option.
Quigley-Hobbs answered that the best practice is not to limit the amount.

Needle programs have existed in Ontario since 1989 and in this region
since 1995.

Data collected at needle syringe program sites in 2017 show about 65
per cent of clients are male, the average age was 37, and 92 per cent
were return clients.

People finding a syringe in a public area or on their property can
contact 519-575-4400.
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