Discarded needle pickup numbers down substantially

By Sarah Stone
May 1, 2013 - 12:12pm

It appears some public education and services in the City of Prince Albert are working.

The latest Prince Albert Fire Department (PAFD) statistics presented at the Service Reviews show a substantial decrease in the number discarded needle pickups from 2009-2012.

With much of the snow already melted this year they’ve seen just less than 400 needles, but have yet to calculate the exact statistics.

“It’s been over 100 [calls] we’ve attended and we’ve picked up over 389 sharps,” said Battalion Chief Curtis Mickelson. “Usually you find more in the downtown core, but you do find some in residential areas.”

When members of the fire department are dispatched for a “sharps” pick-up they will walk the area and for further discarded needles. This task usually takes 30 minutes.

In 2008, the PAFD spent 273 man hours attending sharps pick-ups, but by 2012 that number dropped to 72 hours.

Mickelson said now that there are fewer calls the department can focus their efforts on other tasks.

“We get the chance to get some re-inspections completed, as well as preventative maintenances around the station and ongoing training,” he said, adding it’s vital to make sure businesses are compliant with fire codes and making sure their own equipment is working and ready to go.

One of the reasons the Service Review cites for the dramatic turn of events is proper education from the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region and other partnering stakeholders.

“When people do come to the access place to receive their needles, the councillors there do encourage people to dispose of their needles properly. Some are also given a disposal box that they can utilize at home where they can utilize at home and then bring that in and then we dispose of it in a proper way,” said Lynnda Berg, vice-president of Primary Care.

“I think it’s definitely been a client education kind of one-on-one as people come in and I think a lot of the clients are mindful of the dangers of leaving sharps in the environment these days, so I think that has a big effect.”

The return rate in the needle exchange program is 90 to 95 per cent, which is quite high, Berg explained. This means only a few percentage of the needles they hand out aren’t making it into a safe disposal area.

She believes more public drop boxes in higher risk areas of the community is another way to make the Prince Albert safer and cleaner.

If someone from the public does come across discarded needles and feels they can handle the situation, Mickelson said there is a proper disposal method to ensure safety.

“If they find a needle we recommend that you put on a pair of gloves, you pick the needle up by the barrel portion of it, and they can just place it into an empty pop bottle container with a screwed cap on it and bring it to one of the needle drop-off points in the city.”

There are drop-offs points at the back of the liquor store on First Avenue East, beside the fire hall on 15th Street, on the alley side of National Hotel and 13th Street West across from Dent’s Ball Park.

For additional needle drop box locations contact the Straight to the Point Harm Reduction Program at 306-765-6533.

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On Twitter: @sarahstone84

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