Organizations come together to tackle issue of needles
Tim Brody - Associate Editor
Community organizations have come together in Sioux Lookout to help clean up the community and ensure it remains as safe a place as possible for everyone.
“On Thursday the 19th of April, sergeant (Jason) Spooner and I conducted a foot patrol of the water tower area in Sioux Lookout. During our foot patrol we observed a noticeable number of used needles lying in the snow around the area. We recognized that this issue wasn’t necessarily a policing issue, however it was a community wellness issue,” explained Sioux Lookout OPP sergeant Karl Duewel.
Police brought the issue forward to community stakeholders at a meeting April 25.
Representatives from the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), Municipality of Sioux Lookout, North West EMS, and Kenora District Services Board joined Sioux Lookout OPP members at the meeting.
Gillian Lunny, manager of sexual health and harm reduction at the NWHU, said health unit staff attended the site to conduct a clean-up.
“We always appreciate getting together with community partners to discuss any issues to do with addictions, and housing… and the work we do at the NWHU,” she said.
“Addiction doesn’t have one cause. It can’t possibly have one solution, so it’s important to bring lots of different perspectives and a lot of different partners and services to the table to look at how, as a community, we can comprehensively and effectively address some of these concerns,” she added.
Lunny said if there are areas in communities the health unit serves where there seems to be a pattern of increased needles the health unit would like to know.
“We do work with municipalities and police, anyone who’s in the know as to where needles can be found. Whether it’s more sharps containers mounted at that location. It might be a site where we swing by once a week and just double check. We’re, of course, willing to do that.”
The NWHU offers a needle exchange program and safe needle disposal program as part of its practice of harm reduction.
“There are many different harm reduction strategies that range from safer drug use to drug abstinence. Harm reduction strategies recognize drug use as a complex, multi-faceted issue and seek to minimize the harmful effects of drug use rather than to judge, condemn, or ignore it,” the NWHU explained on its website.
“The Northwestern Health Unit distributes resources, condoms, needles, and drug preparation equipment for harm reduction. The goal is to reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood-borne infections (BBIs) through unprotected sex and the sharing of needles and other drug preparation equipment,” the website added.
The NWHU provided the following instructions for safe needle pick-up and disposal if people should come across them.
• If possible use gloves and tongs to pick up the needle.
• Never put the cap back on a needle.
• Place the needle in a hard-sided plastic container, tightly seal and label “needle”.
• Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer after picking up a needle.
• Return the needle to your local NWHU office.
• Never put needles down the toilet, in drains, or in the garbage.
• Call your local NWHU office to pick-up needles safely if you cannot.
The NWHU advised this spring, “Public Health Nurses throughout the region will be distributing educational materials to workplaces, community partners, and schools about what to do if you find a needle.”
The NWHU harm reduction program provides free resources, training, and equipment to community members, organizations, and workplaces to support safe needle disposal and minimize the risk of exposure to infections.
These services include providing:
• Mountable sharps containers
• Workplace presentations
• Needle pick-up kits
For more information, or to request a presentation, contact the NWHU office in Sioux Lookout at 737-2292.