Friday, March 28, 2008

Outreach worker warns about needles in surprising places

Myles Moreau, a long time fixture of the Prince Rupert street scene is finding that his job as an outreach worker is as demanding as ever, as the prevalence of drugs continues to affect our city.

He lately has issued a warning to the population at large, that they should be vigilant on their normal outdoor activities, as used needles are turning up in some suprising places far away from the downtown core and may provide a danger for young and old alike.

He recently discovered 28 used needles and other injection paraphernalia discarded behind Wantage Road, along the path at the Prince Rupert Golf Course, the large number of used needles could pose a health risk to anyone who regularly walks or jogs along that pathway with their children or pets.

It's indicative of the problems he sees on a daily basis as he goes about his work on the streets of the city, he provided a bit of background to the situation today for the Daily News in their Wednesday edition.

Dumped needles prompt warnings
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Page Five

As a street outreach worker in Prince Rupert, Myles Moreau sees a side of the city that most people aren't aware of. As an ex-heroin user who provides support to many of the downtrodden and delinquent members of the community, Moreau is in a unique position to relate to some of the serious problems that stem from lifestyles of substance abuse.

He was one of the founders of the needle exchange program in town, and knows how beneficial the system can be in reducing the negative health effects of using shared needles and in keeping dirty needles off the streets. So it's not hard to imagine his devastation when he discovered a total of 28 used needles and other injection paraphernalia that had been disposed of on the path behind Wantage Road that runs along the Prince Rupert Golf Course.

"It's something that I think has to be addressed in our community," said Moreau. "It's putting our kids at risk, people who walk their dogs, everyone really. As soon as I picked up all those needles a gentleman came by and told me he walks his dog there all the time."

Along with the used needles was a disposed Sharp container, given out by the Northern Health needle exchange for users to collect their needles and then turn them back in for safe disposal. Also, among the waste were numerous small blue tubes that contain sterile water for safe injection of the drugs, also given out by the exchange.

Moreau met with representatives from the health clinic to discuss the current system used to exchange needles and to suggest some improvements to the program that would help reduce the number of dirty needles finding their way into local neighbourhoods. Northern Health says the numbers of needles being returned remains high, but Moreau contends that it only takes a few ignorant users to dump a large volume of used needles on the streets, possibly infected with any number of infectious diseases.

"I can go in and ask for 15 needles, and then only give them maybe one back. So where does the exchange come in?" he said. "I don't blame the needle exchange people, I just think it needs to be tweaked. Back when we started the program years ago, it was one for one, or as close as possible. And it's also about alerting and informing the community about the dangers posed by these used needles, and the importance for people to be responsible."

The health clinic told Moreau that it's not uncommon for some people to bring back Sharp containers with hundreds of used needles, because some houses users live in have multiple addicts injecting drugs several times a day. While he doesn't deny that many users of the needle exchange are responsible about bringing in their used syringes, the fact he finds needles on a weekly basis proves that some people are not.

"Why pollute our neighbourhoods and put our children at risk? If mom and dad haven't spoken to them about it, they might be curious and pick it up," said Moreau. "I worry about teenagers picking these up and using them, or anybody stepping on them accidentally. There are many problems in our community that we need to deal with, but this is one that shouldn't exist and can be easily fixed if people realize how dangerous it is and we get the 'exchange' put back into the program."

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