MEDICINE HAT, AB -- Red Deer City Council is pushing the province to fund drug debris clean-up efforts.
On Monday, May 27, Red Deer’s Council passed a resolution to discuss the topic at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention in September.
They say needle distribution is a provincial initiative, so the province should fund it.
“There’s that misconception out there that The City is distributing the needles,” says Red Deer Councillor Vesna Higham, who moved the motion on Monday. “The province distributes them and we are left to pick up the fallout because there is no province-wide protocol.”
Something that Medicine Hat Mayor Ted Clugston supports.
“We’ll support that motion of course, and all the power to Red Deer for bringing it up,” says Clugston.
While drug debris is a significant issue for Red Deer, Clugston says it’s not as bad in Medicine Hat.
“Of course I would be foolish to say that it doesn’t exist but from what I’ve hear from other communities we're probably not as bad as most,” says Clugston. “But, that doesn’t mean I’m trying to take away from the fact that it does exist.”
Despite that, HIV Community operates in Medicine Hat, collecting drug debris and even taking calls if something is found.
The organization recently launched a needle debris hotline for residents who find needles, pipes and other other debris that may be present. They will clean up public and private property anywhere in Medicine Hat or Redcliff.
The hotline operates 10am-6pm, Monday-Friday at (403) 866-4698.
In addition to the hotline, the organization can train businesses who would like to learn more about needle disposal.
“We can also train businesses who would like to have sharps containers installed in their washrooms and train them how to safely dispose of needles,” says Leslie Hill, executive director of HIV Community Link.
However, Medicine Hat doesn’t fund the organization’s efforts, Clugston is reluctant to fund any provincial responsibility.
“As soon as you take on a provincial issue, the province kind of goes ‘ok, well now we don’t have to fund it and we’ll give the money that would have gone to Medicine Hat to Red Deer or Lethbridge.’,” he says.
According to HIV Community Links 2017/2018 annual report, they received 71.13 per cent of their funding from the government, 19.8 per cent from grants and foundations, and 8.27 per cent from fundraising.
While members of Red Deer’s city staff, and occasionally ambulances clean up syringes, Medicine Hat simply helps with training and volunteering.
“We’ve done a lot of training with different city departments about our work and about needle debris and we’re happy to continue that work with the city,” says Hill.
With files from RDNewsNow
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