Snow melt reveals thousands of dirty needles in Prince Albert
More than one million needles were handed out at PA's needle exchange program
Usually the spring melt brings about beauty with grass turning green and flowers beginning to bloom.
However, in some areas of Prince Albert the snow melt reveals something ugly instead: thousands of dirty needles are found lying in the grass and brush.
Between April 2013 and April 2014, the region handed out 1,203,382 needles to drug users. With a 95 per cent exchange and recovery rate (which includes those cleaned up by the community) that leaves 60,169 unaccounted for.
"Finding needles in the community, such as this, isn't a good thing," said Brett Enns, the Vice-President of Community and Primary Care for the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region. "What we'd like to see is the folks using the needles becoming more responsible in terms of safely and appropriately disposing of those needles."
When my kids are here I don't allow them to go back here because it's not safe for them.- Norman Pfeil
The owner of The Welding Shop in PA, Norman Pfeil, said at times there are thousands of needles on his property, and users have also broken into one of the buildings he owns to shoot up.
"When my kids are here I don't allow them to go back here because it's not safe for them," said Pfeil.
Pfeils' welding shop is located across the train tracks from the needle exchange office.
"My point of view is they should — if they're going to use a needle — they should use it inside the [exchange] building and no needles should be leaving the building," said Pfeil.
The health region insists the benefits of preventing the spread of blood borne diseases outweighs the negatives.
"Some have said that if we pull the needle exchange program that this will all clean up," said Enns. "And while there might be some lessening of the sights you see, it will never go away."
Enns said the program needs to continue to educate users about the importance of returning the needles they use.
Prince Albert accounts for almost 27 per cent of the needles provided by prevention and risk reduction programs in the province.
Here are figures for some other regions for the same April 2013 to April 2014 time period:
- Five Hills Health Region (which serves Moose Jaw and area, and has a similar population to Prince Albert): 95,719 needles with a 79 per cent exchange and recovery rate.
- Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region: 2,468,306 needles.
- Saskatoon Health Region: 567,304 needles.