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New partnership rids Calgary streets of over 6K needles in first 6 months

A discarded needle lays on a sidewalk.
A discarded needle lays on a sidewalk. Getty Images

The City of Calgary is touting the results of a new partnership with the Calgary Alpha House Society that aims to clear needles from city streets.

Alpha House’s Needle Response Team was launched in January 2019 and on Wednesday, the city revealed that a whopping 6,570 needles were collected in the team’s first six months of operation.

The team patrols areas known to have a high volume of needle debris, and also responds to disposal calls on both public and private property.

READ MORE: Calgary man warns of hidden hazards in effort to clean up Olympic Plaza

The organization’s help collecting sharps has assisted the Calgary Fire Department in a dramatic way, with the city saying firefighters responded to 906 calls for needle debris in the first six months — 226 per cent less than they received in 2018.

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In a news release, CFD assistant deputy chief Deb Bergeson said the decrease helps first responders normally sent to clear needles to instead focus on other emergency calls.

READ MORE: Edmonton installs 23 new safe needle disposal boxes

The CFD is in the process of relocating some of their city-managed needle boxes based on data collected between March and May, which helped them identify which areas in Calgary have a greater need for them.

“We recognized the need for added needle debris boxes, identified priority locations and are working on the immediate installation in these areas,” Bergeson explained.

According to the city, there are 22 needle debris boxes that are managed by the CFD, and “up to five” are going to be either re-located or added.

READ MORE: Discarded needles prompt calls for safe injection sites, more addictions supports in N.B.

In total, the city said 22,469 needles were cleared in Calgary between January and the end of August.

Alpha House’s Needle Response Team can be reached at 403-796-5334 (call or text) or via email at needle@alphahousecalgary.com from Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

After hours, the fire department is available to clear needles from public property, or needles that pose safety risk on private property.