Manitoba

Reports of discarded needles nearly double in Winnipeg

Reports of discarded needles have skyrocketed in Winnipeg, with the number of cases quadrupling in the last two years, according to data from the city.

City of Winnipeg received more than 430 reports of discarded needles so far in 2017

These needles were collected in Winnipeg's North End by volunteers in March 2016. The number of reports to the City of Winnipeg about discarded needles have nearly doubled since last year. (CBC)

Reports of discarded needles have skyrocketed in Winnipeg, with the number of cases quadrupling in the last two years, according to data from the city.

So far this year, the City of Winnipeg has received more than 430 reports of discarded needles on public property.

That's up from 231 in 2016 and just 107 in 2015.

City crews are dispatched immediately when calls about needles come into 311. The crews inspect the site and then dispose of the needle using "safe sharps disposal practices," according to city officials.

The city does not track the actual number of needles picked up, and notes the figures are for service requests so they do not include needles the city picked up without reports.

There could also be multiple calls for the same discarded needle, city officials noted.

The numbers pale in comparison to what community groups say they're picking up, and what needle exchanges say they are distributing.

On Monday, Manitoba Minister of Health Kelvin Goertzen was asked about calls for safe injection sites.

"Those communities that have safe injection sites, it doesn't mean that there aren't needles that are within the communities," said Goertzen.

He said there's no specific proposal the province has looked at in terms of a safe injection site in the City of Winnipeg.

"At this point, we haven't seen the evidence that Winnipeg is similar to [Vancouver's] East Hastings or other communities. I think our drug concentration isn't quite as concentrated as they are in some communities," he said.

Goertzen said he would "never" say that the province wouldn't have a discussion around the possibility of an injection site but that it would be a matter of choosing between priorities.

"There have been calls for a number of different things," he said. "Certainly at this point the evidence doesn't lead us to believe a safe injection site is the best place for resources to go into to try to reduce drug addiction in Manitoba and Winnipeg."

On Monday, Manitoba Minister of Health Kelvin Goertzen was asked about calls for safe injection sites and said there are no specific proposals being discussed for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. (CBC)

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