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Needle Safety Is Everyone's Concern

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

As snow melts, litter discarded during the winter is uncovered, which often includes hypodermic needles. In response, Needle Safe Saskatoon and community volunteers are busy cleaning up roads, parks and public spaces.

About 40 volunteers are participating in this year’s clean-up. Last year, the group recovered 372 needles during the clean-up. In 2008, a total of 54,978 needles were collected during spring clean-ups and from the needle drop boxes located throughout the City. Needle Safe Saskatoon is hoping a collaborative team approach, and increased education and awareness will help reduce these numbers.

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“Needles can and have been found throughout the city. We understand how scary this can be and we are committed to keeping our communities safe. Needle Safe Saskatoon is working in partnership to explore options to enhance community safety, such as increasing needle disposal boxes and participating in community clean-ups such as this,” said Dr. Johnmark Opondo, Saskatoon Health Region’s Deputy Medical Health Officer.

“Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services is committed to protecting the community. When a carelessly discarded needle is jeopardizing the safety of our citizens (especially children), we respond to remove the danger. Fire crews are dispatched to retrieve needles within their own response districts, thus, ensuring availability for a timely response to other emergencies if required,” said Assistant Chief Bob Fawcett, Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services.

Needle Safe Saskatoon is an intersectoral partnership created in 1999. The partnership includes: Saskatoon Health Region, Saskatoon Police Service, Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services, City of Saskatoon, Riversdale Business Improvement District, Saskatoon Regional Intersectoral Committee and AIDS Saskatoon.

The goal is to increase community awareness about needle safety, reduce the number of improperly discarded needles found and any potential injuries, and to develop strategies around safe needle disposal. For example, Needle Safe Saskatoon assisted in developing Needle Disposal Kits, which are available to the public on a cost-recovery basis, to assist with needle clean-up. These kits are available to anyone who might come in contact with needles, such as landlords, hotels, taxicabs, etc. Kits can be ordered through Public Health.