The rash of used needles being discarded carelessly around town is a community health issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
Seemingly concerned more about defending its needle exchange program, the local Northwestern Health Unit looks to be downplaying the matter—blaming social media for making the problem seem more widespread than it is.
No matter its extent, it obviously is a problem here. Last May, for instance, a local dad was shocked to find a baggie filled with used needles while visiting a north-end park with his family. Then just this past April, a seven-year-old boy actually was poked by a needle he had found in a back alley while walking home from Robert Moore School.
Sure, disease transmission from a needle poke is said to be very rare. Nonetheless, this young boy and his family faces more testing over the next year and the nagging question of “what if?” Fortunately, there haven't been other reports of youngsters being injured by needles they may find but this one case is, frankly, one too many.
This isn't about blaming the needle exchange program run by the health unit, which plays an important role in protecting public health by reducing the dangers associated with addicts sharing needles while also offering them access to counselling to perhaps help kick their habit.
Rather, this is people putting others in danger because of their irresponsible behaviour when it comes to disposing used needles.
Residents can contact the health unit to come and properly dispose of found used needles—during office hours. The local Bear Clan Patrol, having been trained to do so by the health unit, also offers this service 24/7. Otherwise, we're largely relying on Bear Clan volunteers to rid this health hazard during their regular weekly patrols around town.
That's not good enough. While it's important to continue to raise awareness of this issue, a concerted effort clearly is needed if we're to tackle this problem effectively.
And part of that is shining the light on the abuse of illicit drugs in our community instead of choosing to simply look the other away.