By Chad Ingram
Published: Dec. 27 2017
Anyone who thinks there’s not a drug problem in Haliburton County should probably think again.
Francine Fernandes a public health nurse with the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit paid a visit to Dysart et al councillors during their Dec. 18 meeting.
The health unit wants to install a disposal bin for used needles in Head Lake Park. It seems there are a number in the community using intravenous drugs and discarding needles in public places.
As Fernandes explained the health unit in partnership with a local pharmacy provides kits with clean needles to drug users.
“We’re basically providing people with clean needles” Fernandes said. She added that no one is going to stop anyone who wants to from using street drugs so the idea of the health unit’s harm reduction work is to make that drug usage as safe as possible thereby decreasing risk of diseases such as Hepatitis C.
Between June and Dec. 15 6000 needles were handed out at the Haliburton pharmacy.
“For anybody who thinks there isn’t drugs in Haliburton I hate to tell you but there is” Fernandes told councillors.
“Holy cow” uttered Mayor Murray Fearrey.
The bin the health unit would like to install is similar to a mailbox weighs about 200 pounds and would be bolted to either a concrete slab or a building and use a double-lock system.
“They are very safe” Fernandes told council.
With a capacity of about 6000 needles the bins would be emptied by health unit staff.
The bins are common in larger centres. Fernandes said there about 100 of them stationed throughout the city of Ottawa.
“People need somewhere to put their needles” Fernandes said explaining the secure bins keep used needles out of the regular garbage cans in a community.
Dysart parks and rec staff have found used needles in the garbage cans in Head Lake Park and at least one along Highland Street.
“Would that not lead to encouraging drug users to use that particular spot?” asked Councillor Susan Norcross.
“That’s definitely a valid question” Fernandes told Norcross. “We’ll often hear ‘doesn’t this encourage drug use?’ It doesn’t because it’s already happening.”
Fernandes said bins are located in areas where the health unit is aware that drug use is happening anyway.
“It’s an astounding number of people using them” Fearrey said.
It’s likely many of the needles are being used for fentanyl a powerful drug that is causing what many health and social services workers are calling an epidemic across the country. During 2017 health agencies across the country have indicated that several Canadians are dying each day from fentanyl use. Fernandes said often with fentanyl addiction it begins when someone is prescribed the drug by a doctor for medical reasons. Many fentanyl users are functioning members of society she said.
“Sadly I think this is a very good idea” said Deputy Mayor Andrea Roberts. “It’s sad the numbers are what they are.”
“It’s a sad day when you hear this sort of thing” said Fearrey.
Council referred the issue to municipal staff.