News

Health unit offers secure needle disposal

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

SIMCOE  - 

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit has expanded its harm-reduction strategy related to intravenous drug users.

With opioid addiction an increasing problem in the local area and elsewhere, the health unit has set up three 24-hour disposal sites where users can dispose of old needles.

Needle disposal is a concern for health officials because intravenous drug abuse is highly correlated with blood-borne illnesses, such as HIV and hepatitis.

Used needles that aren’t properly disposed pose a hazard to young people who may pick them up or people passing by who are inadvertently stabbed.

“The provision of safe and secure sharps disposal units has proven effective in other communities to reduce the number of needles discarded in public spaces,” Tamara Robb, a nurse with the health unit, said this week in a news release.

“The secure sharps kiosks will keep our communities safe by reducing the risk of needle-stick injuries and ensuring that people can access the kiosks without barriers. This is an important step in helping our communities to be safer.”

Other recent expansions of the health unit’s harm-reduction strategy include the free distribution of naloxone nasal spray to individuals who are at risk of an opioid overdose. Free naloxone is also available to friends and families who are acquainted with an addict at risk of an overdose.

Naloxone is a fast-acting antidote that temporarily reverses the depressive effects of opioids on the central nervous system. Naloxone buys time so paramedics and other medical professionals can administer a permanent solution to an overdose crisis.

The health unit also offers free injection kits to opioid abusers. In doing so, the health unit hopes to cut down on the number of shared needles and the disease risk associated with that.

The 24-hour sharps disposal depots are located at health unit offices in Simcoe, Caledonia and Dunnville. Funding for the program has been provided by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com