The Winnipeg Bear Clan is on track to take 145,000 needles off city streets — about 25,000 more than they thought they would this year.
The local patrol group’s founder calls the numbers “incredible.” The latest needle drop they did, said James Favel, was 31,000 needles, collected only in eight weeks.
“When you consider that last year we recovered 40,000 used syringes all year, to recover 31,000 in eight weeks…” Favel told 680 CJOB.
Favel said the situation is likely to only get worse unless some supports are put in place.
Harm reduction programs hand out needles to people who need them for free in an effort to prevent blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis from being transferred to other people.
But those free needles aren’t being recollected by the programs that hand them out, said Favel.
“We need to have a more stringent reclamation program run by WRHA (Winnipeg Regional Health Authority) and other service providers,” he said.
“I support harm reduction 100 per cent, but (the WRHA) needs to consider the needs of the community members that they’re serving as well.”
Earlier this year, the Winnipeg Bear Clan was estimating it would pick up 120,000 needles and asked the various levels of government for some support.
“We are spending more time picking up needles than we are just about any other thing than we do right now and that’s not right,” Favel said in July.
“This is not why the organization started – so we can pick up bio-hazardous waste.”