IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT AUMA advocate to the Government of Alberta for a province-wide strategy for the clean-up and disposal of used needle debris, and for the Government of Alberta to provide additional resources to municipalities to collect and dispose of used needles;
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED THAT that until such time as a strategy is established, the Province provides adequate funding to municipalities to respond to these ongoing costs.
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta, through various agencies, annually distributes millions of harm reduction needles, province-wide, in response to the opioid/drug addiction crisis in Alberta;
WHEREAS needles are used by people with specific health conditions and addictions, and the majority of needles are disposed of safely by the people who have used them; however, work is needed to respond to the increased needle debris;
WHEREAS while needle distribution is reducing the number of shared needles used, a growing number of discarded needles are being discovered in public spaces such as parks and recreation areas, causing significant public health and safety concerns; and
WHEREAS municipalities are being increasingly burdened by the rising costs of needle debris clean-up, and many citizens are deeply concerned for their health and safety
This issue is being felt by municipalities across the province. A snapshot of Red Deer's experience is shared below.
The Government of Alberta through its agencies distributes harm reduction supplies in Central Alberta. The Safer Injection tools they distribute include syringes, filters, alcohol swabs, ties (also known as tourniquets), sharps containers, individual waters, cookers, vitamin C, and citric acid. The Safer Inhalation tools they distribute include stems and crystal meth pipes (also known as straight shooters or pipes), mouthpieces, screens, and pushes. There was a distribution of 422,675 new needles in 2014-I 5 throughout central Alberta, and these numbers increased to 529,863 in 2015-16. Based on harm reduction best practices, this is not a needle exchange program, and thus there is no expectation of needles being returned. Based on a historical context, approximately a third of needles are not returned to agencies, although they may also be disposed of through non-tracked means such as private pharmacies or distributed to other communities.
The needles that are unaccounted for represent a significant community safety issue and lend themselves to a negative perception of the places they are found.
Although Alberta's Health Ministry has implemented an effective Harm Reduction program, they have failed to address the resulting community safety impact their program has on the community. This has left the burden of the resulting cleanup process on the municipal taxpayers.
The Minister’s response notes that the province provides funding to organizations in communities where SCS are operating or have been proposed, specifically for needle debris.