AUMA to champion Red Deer’s resolution to make government accountable for needle debris

A new protocol is needed for needle distribution/ pick-up, says mayor

The City of Red Deer won strong support for its resolution urging the province to come up with a needle distribution and clean-up strategy at the AUMA Conference in Edmonton.

The city also endorsed a resolution put forward by the City of Lethbridge that called for the province to implement a four-pillar plan for combating drug abuse.

Since both resolutions received support from the majority of municipalities at the conference, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association will be advocating for these issues at future discussions with government.

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer has long been urging the province to create a new protocol for how clean needles are given out by harm-reduction groups, and how they are later rounded-up and safely disposed of.

She wants the government to take responsibility for the needle debris residents are finding on streets, alleys and parks, since thousands of needles are being provided for agencies to give out to stop the spread of harmful diseases through needle sharing.

Right now, there’s no solid plan for these needles’ return, Veer added. And this is creating a public safety hazard.

Red Deer’s resolution urges the provincial government to consider implementing a program that ensures that all needles that are given out are disposed of safely. In the interim, it is calling on the government to give municipalities more money for needle clean up.

“Crime and community safety are our top priorities, and we need the provincial government to implement a province-wide strategy to prevent the proliferation of, and to ensure the clean-up and disposal of, discarded needle debris,” said Veer.

The resolution put forward by the City of Lethbridge, with strong support from the City of Red Deer, calls on the provincial government to create a four-pillar drug strategy to deal with the opioid crisis.

Veer said so far harm reduction has been the main focus of the government’s plan. Red Deer and Lethbridge officials are asking the government to focus on prevention and education, treatment and enforcement, as well as harm reduction.

At the conference, meetings were held with provincial cabinet ministers to discuss a variety of topics, including needed support for Red Deer’s policing, the status of Red Deer College’s transition to university status, and opportunities for the city to work with the provincial government on red-tape reduction.

Veer received assurance that Red Deer College’s transition to a university will continue, regardless of what the provincial budget will bring. But she did not receive any answers about whether more provincial money will be provided for urban policing.

The AUMA Convention wrapped up on Friday.

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