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Needles an epidemic

Dear Mr. Editor,

There is an epidemic festering in the Rainy River District and it is growing rapidly!

When scrolling through Facebook posts, one cannot help but see the posts from concerned citizens about drug paraphernalia and needles being found in Fort Frances and the surrounding area.

These bio-hazardous materials threaten the safety of children, pets and anyone else who could come across them.

At a public forum, a representative for the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) stated that approximately 800,000 needles were given out in 2017 in the Rainy River District.

This number does not include diabetics or individuals who use needles for their prescribed medications.

A person in the audience then asked this representative, “How many of those needles are returned?” The representative could not give a true number but estimated approximately 60 percent.

At that rate, 320,000 needles are improperly disposed of in our district—in garbage bags like the ones found at rest stops, our streets, our parks, our sports fields, our alleys, our new market square, etc.

What is bewildering and inconceivable is that this festering epidemic appears to be growing due to the actions/inactions of the NWHU, a government-funded agency whose mission is to “improve the quality and length of life in our communities: healthy lifestyles, longer lives, lived well.”

The NWHU offers safer injecting supplies through its needle syringe programs (NSP). While each NSP acts as a needle exchange site, meaning clients can drop off used supplies for safe disposal as well as replenish their equipment, clients are not required to “trade in” used equipment in order to gain access to supplies and services.

The NWHU's policy states: “Place no limit on the number of needles provided per client, per visit, without requiring clients to return used needles.”

I know I am not the only citizen who wonders what it will take for the NWHU to realize that their NSP is not working and is, in fact, endangering the lives of the citizens it is suppose to serve.

Instead of the NWHU focusing on providing “harm reduction supplies” to users and encouraging clients to return and/or properly dispose of used needles and syringes, demand and enforce that users will only get a clean needle in exchange for a used needle.

Protect our most vulnerable citizens, our children! Children can no longer run freely to play in our parks, school yards or, for that matter, their own neighbourhood without a thorough examination of the area for needles by concerned parents.

Before, parents only really worried about their child tripping and scraping a knee.

It is a frustrating shame that parents now have to be vigilant and constantly on the lookout for the danger of needles that are improperly disposed of by users who do no care about anyone else.

One of many

concerned citizens,

J. Brandli

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