Thousands of needles given to injection drug users in Selkirk
Some people living in Selkirk, Man. are worried a drug problem in their city is growing after finding needles used for injection drugs on the ground.
The local health authority says it’s given out more than 33,000 needles to drug users since launching a needle-exchange program last August.
But CBC has learned officials have since stopped handing out sharps containers and are now encouraging users to dispose of needles in bleach containers.
A spokesperson for the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority said the move is to cut costs and avoid the stigma users may face when carrying a yellow sharps container.
The RHA says users can dispose of used needles safely at its office.
Samantha Graham said she found a needle in a back lane close to an elementary school.
“A kid wouldn’t know what it is, they could just go and like grab it and hurt themselves with it,” she said.
“It looked like there was blood in it to be honest.”
Graham, 20, is a former drug user and said dealers in Selkirk have offered her drugs to shoot up.
She said she never accepted the offers but wants more people to tune into the drug problem that’s in her city. “I’ve heard it’s gotten worse over time and more people are starting to use now,” Graham said.
‘I don’t think you should be helping them’
Amber Truthwaite said she was stunned to find a needle just steps away from her front door earlier this year.
“I’m not happy. I have two dogs that I have come out in the yard. I’ve got my niece and my nephew across the street who are in my yard. I can’t have that.”
Truthwaite is not in favour of the RHA’s needle exchange program that provides spoons, sterile water and tourniquets for users to get high with.
“I don’t think you should be helping them do the drugs, you know you can spend the money on other ways to help somebody,” she said.
Health officials in Selkirk say the needle-exchange program is playing an important role in the prevention of Hepatitis C and HIV.
‘A need for needle distribution’
A spokesperson for the RHA confirmed more than 33,000 needles have been handed out over the last 15 months.
But no one at the RHA would say if they were surprised by the volume of needles handed out, saying instead no expectations were set for the program.
The RHA also noted some users may be coming from areas outside of Selkirk to get needles.
“We recognize that there was a need because people in the community of Selkirk did come forward saying that there was a need for a needle distribution program,” said Maxine Zasitko, a public health manager.
The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba said it supports the clean needle program.
The foundation said alcohol, cannabis, oxycodone, cocaine and amphetamines are a problem in Selkirk, based on statistics it’s gathered from the past two years.