Making a point: safe disposal of used needles is essential
By Kim Dolan
Executive Director, PARN
Published Aug. 21, 2018
Most of us will hang on to a candy wrapper, empty chip bag or other piece of trash until we can toss it into a garbage can. Littering outdoors goes against our nature, so having garbage cans set up in convenient locations benefits us and the environment.
The safe and proper disposal of used needles/syringes is even more important. Used needles/syringes may injure people and transmit viruses like HIV and hepatitis B or C. When there is a safe, secure disposal bin for used needles/syringes, we protect people’s health and reduce the risks that come when these items are dropped on the ground or in garbage cans.
If we make it easy for people to safely dispose of items – be it garbage or used needles – they’re more likely to do it!
This responsible approach is being taken in the Village of Haliburton. There is a problem of used needles/syringes being dropped in the area of Head Lake Park and nearby streets, as well as in garbage cans. This poses a public health risk. Thanks to the forward-thinking approval of the Municipality of Dysart et al, PARN and the local health unit are installing a needle disposal bin in the area of the park. Similar to a mail box, this metal bin is bolted down and locked, allowing for easy and safe disposal of needles. The bin will be regularly monitored and emptied of contents for safe disposal.
There was a lot of concern raised last December when plans for a needle disposal bin in Head Lake Park were first discussed. This implied drug use, and in a small community like Haliburton County, it was shocking.
Like many small Ontario communities, Haliburton County is not immune to the problem. In 2015, Haliburton had the second highest rate of prescription opioid users in all of Ontario. From 2009 to 2013, Haliburton County had the third-highest rate of opioid-related deaths in all the province.
Anyone can become addicted to drugs, regardless of job, income, education or social status. We need to support those affected through effective harm-reduction efforts like Needle Exchange Programs (NEP). A successful NEP has been operating in Haliburton County since 2009, providing new needles and equipment free-of-charge to individuals who inject and inhale drugs. This has many benefits. One is helping prevent the transmission of blood-borne infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV by ensuring people do not reuse or share dirty needles. The NEP also provides a place where PARN and health unit staff can listen and support people who use drugs, while providing information to help them access other services.
In supplying new needles and equipment through NEPs, it’s also essential to provide safe and proper disposal options. This is done by letting people return or exchange their used needles at the NEP, and outside of program hours, promoting other spots for safe disposal such as the new needle disposal bin in Haliburton. These disposal bins also benefit people who use needles for medical conditions, like diabetes.
Harm reduction works and benefits everyone in our community. Let’s embrace this opportunity to make Haliburton safer for all!