File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / webkingFile photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / webking

Councillor looking for needle program revamp

A local councillor is looking to bring some improvements to Chatham-Kent's needle and syringe program.

Councillor Aaron Hall will bring forward a motion during Monday night's meeting that asks staff to provide recommendations to revamp the municipal Needle-Syringe Program.

According to CK Public Health's website, The Needle Syringe Program provides new needles and supplies in order to reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases. It also helps to protect the public by reducing the number of needles discarded in places like playgrounds and washrooms. There are several local establishments that partner with the program where people can bring in used needles or syringes for disposal and get new ones, including the Shoppers Drug Mart in Wallaceburg.

However, Hall said there are some inadequacies in the current program, including the program partners facing logistic and financial limitations. He said the owner of the Wallaceburg Shoppers Drug Mart often has to take matters into her own hands.

"She's having to spend money out of her own pocket from her own business to properly dispose of all the needles that are being brought to her business through the program," he said. "It just doesn't seem to be working properly."

Hall, who sits on the Chatham-Kent Drug Awareness Council, is hoping staff can reexamine the current distribution model and the bulk purchase of supplies for the program. He also believes the municipality needs to look at the number of locations where needles can be safely disposed of for both those with medical conditions and those using substances.

"When needles are discarded improperly in a public place, it is often a result of not having easy access to safe disposal," reads Hall's motion.

In addition, Hall said he's heard from a number of residents over the years who have expressed concerns about finding used needles in public places. With his motion, he's also hoping to look at increasing the education and messaging that gets put out about the program as well as improving the municipal process that's in place for when a call is received about needles found in the community. He said currently, there are some challenges with geographically tracking where calls are coming from and targeting where intervention is needed.

"That's part of it as well," he said. "Look at that messaging and education for the community so that people are aware of exactly what to do if they find a needle, who to call, what number and what they can expect."

If the motion for the report gets approved on Monday, Hall would like to see it be completed in collaboration with the pending Municipal Drug Strategy, which is set to be discussed during the 2020 budget deliberations.

"There are lots of different parts to it. There are lots of different aspects to this whole syringe and needle issue. I think taking it piece by piece and having a good look at it and thinking deep into it by seeing where we can improve will be really important," said Hall.

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