Drop boxes part of plan

Safe nee­dle re­trieval and dis­posal cam­paign launched

The Expositor (Brantford) - - FRONT PAGE - VIN­CENT BALL EX­POS­I­TOR STAFF

Nee­dle drop boxes have been in­stalled at three lo­ca­tions as lo­cal of­fi­cials try to deal with the scourge of care­lessly dis­carded sy­ringes.

The new drop boxes have been placed at Brant’s Cross­ing Park at 150 Icomm Dr., the side park­ing lot of the civic cen­tre at 69-79 Mar­ket St. S. and ad­ja­cent to Hope Phar­macy at 349 Col­borne St. Dis­carded nee­dles are reg­u­larly found at all three ar­eas.

“This is an ef­fort to mit­i­gate the num­ber of nee­dles found in pub­lic places,” said Maria Visoc­chi, Brant­ford’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions and com­mu­nity en­gage­ment di­rec­tor. “We rec­og­nized the need for ad­di­tional nee­dle drop boxes in the com­mu­nity and, to­gether with our part­ners, now have more places for peo­ple to dis­pose of dis­carded nee­dles safely.”

In­stal­la­tion of the bright yel­low boxes was com­pleted on Mon­day. A pub­lic aware­ness cam­paign con­cern­ing the proper dis­posal of nee­dles be­gins Thurs­day.

Nee­dle drop boxes can also be found out­side St. Leonard’s of­fices at 225 Fairview Dr. and at 133 El­gin St. Those drop boxes, like the three new ones, are avail­able 24 hours a day.

Used nee­dles also can be put in drop boxes dur­ing reg­u­lar busi­ness hours at the Brant­ford Clinic, 205 Col­borne St., To­wards Re­cov­ery, 95 Dar­ling St. and Col­borne Street Clinic, 349 Col­borne St.

But while city of­fi­cials hop­ing the drop boxes will help ad­dress the dis­carded nee­dle prob­lem, Tracey Bucci, of the Grand River En­vi­ron­men­tal Group, ques­tions their ef­fec­tive­ness.

“If some­one doesn’t care what they are in­ject­ing into their bod­ies, why would they care about prop­erly dis­card­ing their nee­dles?” Bucci said. “Even if they do care, are they ca­pa­ble of prop­erly dis­card­ing a nee­dle when they’re in an al­tered state after us­ing? “The boxes are, in a way, like garbage cans. How many times do you find your­self pick­ing up garbage when there is a garbage can only a few feet way?”

Bucci’s vol­un­teer group reg­u­larly con­ducts cleanups of ar­eas around the Grand River, find­ing plenty of used sy­ringes over the years. Their most re­cent cleanup took place Satur­day at Brant’s Cross­ing. Vol­un­teers col­lected be­tween 60 and 70 used nee­dles, Bucci said.

“For me, there are larger is­sues, like poverty, hope­less­ness, home­less­ness, the feel­ings of des­per­a­tion that are so se­vere peo­ple re­sort to drugs to escape their re­al­ity,” said Bucci.

City of­fi­cials be­gan work­ing on a safe nee­dle dis­posal plan after scores of used nee­dles were found in the area of Mo­hawk Lake in April 2017. A Brant­ford res­i­dent posted a pho­to­graph of about 30 used sy­ringes he had found dur­ing a week­end visit to the park.

Mu­nic­i­pal work­ers were dis­patched to the area and col­lected an­other 20 sy­ringes. A cou­ple of weeks later, the Grand River group col­lected even more sy­ringes in area.

The lo­ca­tions for the new boxes were cho­sen in con­junc­tion with the Brant County Health Unit and St. Leonard’s, Visoc­chi said.

“Ad­di­tional boxes may be in­stalled later in the year once the health unit has trained and equipped the vol­un­teer nee­dle dis­cov­ery and dis­posal team that will reg­u­larly pa­trol pri­or­ity ar­eas where dis­carded nee­dles are found,” Visoc­chi said. “The work of the vol­un­teer team will help in­form ad­di­tional drop box lo­ca­tions in the future.”

The new drop boxes were in­stalled as part of a new $72,000 one-year pi­lot project ap­proved by city coun­cil in De­cem­ber and de­vel­oped through a part­ner­ship with the health unit and St. Leonard’s. Other com­po­nents of the Harm Re­duc­tion – Safe Nee­dle Re­trieval and Dis­posal pro­gram in­clude pub­lic aware­ness and en­gage­ment, proac­tive nee­dle dis­cov­ery and track­ing and eval­u­a­tion of the pro­gram.

Harm re­duc­tion and proper nee­dle dis­posal are part of the over­all Brant­ford-Brant Com­mu­nity Drug Strat­egy de­vel­oped to com­bat the opi­oid cri­sis and re­duce the mis­use of all drugs.

The drug strat­egy was launched last Novem­ber after sev­eral months of study and con­sul­ta­tion fol­low­ing re­ports of sus­pected opi­oid over­dose in the com­mu­nity.

Fig­ures pro­vided by the drug strat­egy group, which in­cludes more than 20 agen­cies, show there were 204 emer­gency room vis­its for opi­oid over­doses in 2017 peak­ing in the third quar­ter and drop­ping off in the last quar­ter of the year. Most of the vis­its were due to ac­ci­den­tal over­dose.

Brant­ford-Brant emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices re­sponded to 213 in­ci­dents re­lated to opi­oid over­dose and most of the sus­pected cases - 70 per cent – in­volved men, aged 20 to 29.

Other ini­tia­tives to com­bat the opi­oid cri­sis in­clude the dis­tri­bu­tion of nalox­one kits by lo­cal phar­ma­cies, the health unit and St. Leonard’s.

This is an ef­fort to mit­i­gate the num­ber of nee­dles found in pub­lic places.” Maria Visoc­chi, Brant­ford com­mu­ni­ca­tions and com­mu­nity en­gage­ment di­rec­tor.

BRIAN THOMP­SON/THE EX­POS­I­TOR

A new nee­dle drop box is lo­cated be­side the civic cen­tre.

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