Drop boxes part of plan
Safe needle retrieval and disposal campaign launched
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.
A new needle drop box is located beside the civic centre.