In one less conspicuous way, Red Deer is becoming a safer community.
A Central Alberta AIDS Network Society (CAANS) program is helping to reduce the chances of someone accidentally coming in contact with used needles and other types of sharps.
Some years ago, the network established outdoor drop boxes at several locations in Red Deer for people to leave used needles. Over time, thousands of needles have been disposed of safely via these containers. Some of the locations include the Buffalo Hotel, Barrett Park and Rotary Recreation Park.
And for about the past year, CAANS has been providing sharps containers for use inside businesses and community facilities — in the washrooms of restaurants or parks, for example.
Jennifer Vanderschaeghe, executive director of CAANS, said there are a number of the indoor sharps containers throughout Red Deer. Such containers are normal for urban environments, she said, and can be found in many places, including airports and libraries.
In Red Deer, they are located in washrooms at arenas, library bathrooms, shelters, the food bank and splash parks, for example, she said.
Part of it is preventive, and the people using the sharps containers can include diabetics. But it tends to be a variety of people who are using bathrooms, Vanderschaeghe said.
“It’s really about preventing the sharps from being flushed or thrown in the trash. Both of those are risks and can be expensive.”
Needles do not flush down the toilet and so a plumber may be required. If someone throws a needle into trash, then people who process the garbage are at risk. “It’s best practice actually for public bathrooms to have sharps containers,” she said.
“I think everybody would recognize that any sharps that are going into sharps containers is a good thing because the alternative to that is not good,” said Vanderschaeghe.
“We spend a lot of time talking to a lot of people who use drugs about disposing of them properly and the best way to do that is to have as many different locations as possible. That’s why there’s needle drop boxes. That’s why we give out personal sharps containers. That’s why we would never charge someone who uses drugs to have a sharps container.”
CAANS provides the containers and advice about where to install them to businesses and the city for a fee. When a sharps container is full, then the business, for example, returns it to the CAANS office.
A company then picks them up from CAANS and disposes of them.
CAANS spends about $1,100 per month on the disposal, said Vanderschaeghe.
The containers now are not see-through. This means that if a parent were in a washroom with a child “kids don’t ask what it is and parents don’t have to have those conversations.
“For kids, it just looks like another dispenser because they don’t see the needles,” she said.