27,426 intravenous needles picked up in Queen City Patrol’s first year

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WATCH: As drug overdoses continue to spike in Regina, Queen City Patrol is looking back on a year of witnessing the scale of addiction first-hand. – Nov 29, 2020

A lot can happen in 365 days.

Just ask Queen City Patrol founder Patty Will.

“In the last year we have actually gathered 27,4265 needles,” said Will. “We also pick up other paraphernalia: cookers, armbands, baggies and any type of drug item that we find.”

Read more: New Regina city council kicks off new term with renewed focus on social issues

Will founded Queen City Patrol a year ago Thursday after seeing needles strewn about her neighbourhood.

Fearing the idea of a child getting pricked, she went out with a friend to do a cleanup.

“We found 368 needles that night,” Will said. “So we came back to my place and said enough is enough.”

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That one-night clean up quickly turned into a weekly endeavour.

Now, the Patrol is out three nights a week, has become a certified non-profit and has grown in size.

Queen City Patrol volunteer Matthew Gillingham examines the ground around a garbage can for IV needles and other dangerous paraphernalia. Justin Bukoski

In its early days, the Patrol consisted of just two volunteers.

Now, five or six Narcan-trained volunteers join Will three nights a week to clean up the streets.

Matthew Gillingham started volunteering a few months ago after hearing about the Patrol from a friend.

“It cleans up the community. It gets you out of the house. It’s something you can do that’s good,” Gillingham said. “If you have nothing to do and you’re bored come out for the night.”

Read more: Advocates say more needs to be done to prevent overdose deaths in Saskatchewan

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A look at some of the items found during a night of patrolling. Justin Bukoski

Unfortunately, it seems Regina’s drug addiction problem has grown over the past year as well.

On this past Monday alone Regina Police reported four overdose deaths.

They added that they were aware of more than 90 apparent overdose deaths and say they’ve attended or have heard of over 900 total overdose events so far this year.

According to the Saskatchewan Coroners Service, 296 drug-related deaths have been confirmed or suspected in the province between Jan. 1 and Oct. 26.

All of those figures are yearly records.

Read more: Regina police urge public to be aware as number of overdoses climbs

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“It has grown over the past year,” Will said. “With the pandemic we’ve been finding way more needles. Our theory on that one is that people can’t go out to bars like they normally do. They might be stuck at home and might relapse into old habits.”

Will said she would like to see a safe consumption site established in Regina so that drugs could be consumed under medical supervision.

She said she’d also like to see the city install more needle disposal bins.

“We only have two in Regina. Saskatoon has 23. Prince Albert has 18. So I believe that would help with paraphernalia disposal,” she said.

Read more: Saskatchewan health minister responds to potential record drug overdose numbers

The Queen City Patrol logo is seen on the side of the van the group uses to make its way around the city. Justin Bukoski / Global News

In a conversation earlier this week, Global News asked new Regina mayor Sandra Masters what role she thinks the city should play in addressing drug addiction.

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She pledged to engage with frontline workers and work with higher government levels to try and find solutions.

“Our EMS workers, our firefighters and our police officers are dealing with this multiple times a day. We need to support them in terms of finding out what they need,” Masters said.