Needle Safe Saskatoon sees continued decline of needles left after winter
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Every spring, Needle Safe Saskatoon takes to the city’s streets cleaning up needles – used and discarded into a winter’s worth of snow and ice, only to be exposed once the melt is over.
This year the 35 volunteers spent Tuesday morning scouring designated zones within the city collecting a total of 176 discarded needles - a slight decline in the number of needles collected in 2012.
“We’re finding that the trend of finding needles out in the community is actually going down,” said Dr. Johnmark Opondo, deputy medical health officer for the Saskatoon Health Region. “I think overall, as a community, we’re doing better. We’re getting more of these sharps out of the community.”
In 2011, 479 needles were collected during the annual clean up. In 2012, that number dropped to 188. The zones covered include Idylwyld Drive to Avenue W between 19 Street West and 22 Street West, 33 Street West, and 8 Street East.
Opondo said the continued decline is because harm reduction programs in Saskatoon, such as needle exchanges or strategically placed needle drop boxes throughout the city, are being utilized more often.
He said the purpose of these kinds of programs, including the annual spring clean up, is to help keep everyone safe within a community.
“The purpose of our needle exchange programs is to address and reduce the transmission of some very, very important and serious disease conditions in our community,” said Opondo.
He continued, “Unfortunately addictions and mental health problems are still present in our community. And we want to keep our community brothers and sisters safe until they have an opportunity to address their problem.”