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Regina non-profit launches app to help with cleanup of discarded needles

Amanda Sauer, the AIDS Program South Saskatchewan (APSS) education co-ordinator, picks up a needle. Stewart Manhas / Global News

AIDS Program South Saskatchewan (APSS) is launching a new app this week to help its staff and volunteers find and safely dispose of discarded needles in Regina.

Report Needles, accessible through the community-based organization’s website, officially goes online Thursday.

Through the interface, people who come across needles can register their exact location on a map and then upload a picture of what they see to help guide those who will be cleaning them up to the precise spot. As an optional feature, those who want confirmation that the needles are gone can enter contact information to receive a notification that the situation has been dealt with.

A screenshot of the Report Needles app. Screenshot

“Finding needles in the community is a huge problem,” said Sophie Pitman, the APSS program co-ordinator. “Having an app like this is just going to make the process so much more easier and so much more efficient.”

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Read more: ‘It’s crazy’ — Queen City Patrol picks up more than 1,000 needles in one spot

APSS participated in a local 2019 hackathon, explaining how it was challenging to follow the directions tipsters were describing to staff over the phone and leaving in voicemails.

Web developer Luke Towers tackled the problem, coming with the Report Needles app over the course of the 24 hours allotted for the competition.

Web developer Luke Towers. Stewart Manhas / Global News

“It was a relatively simple problem when they explained it to me,” said Towers, whose past designs have focused on transferring data between online users. “They just needed an easier way to find out where the needles were and getting better readings.”

Read more: Regina’s front-line workers say coronavirus is causing ‘heartbreaking’ battles with addiction

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After the hackathon, it took Towers a few days to refine the app.

APSS education co-ordinator Amanda Sauer said the delay in the launch was the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sauer said that APSS has a 92.4 per cent return rate on the needles it distributes, but that does leave some unaccounted for.

“We want to make sure that we’re taking responsibility for that,” she said, “and keep everyone as safe as possible.”

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