More than 130,000 spent needles collected in Winnipeg 2022-23

A sign of the overdose crisis, Street Connections collected more than 130,000 spent needles from the streets of Winnipeg over 2022-23. Morgan Modjeski reports.

Thousands of needles improperly disposed of is just one sign of the overdose crisis in Manitoba, and one community member who has seen the effect of the emergency firsthand says a supervised consumption site is crucial for Winnipeg.

Craig Fontaine used a needle last week to inject drugs, and while it’s easy to dispose of needles properly, you first have to know where to go. 

“You have to find the place — the location. You have to know where you’re going so it’s got to be something you’re used to. Something you’ve done before,” said  Fontaine.

Craig Fontaine says he used a needle to do drugs just a week ago and says while disposing of needles properly is easy, you first have to know where to go to get rid of the used sharps. (Morgan Modjeski/CityNews)

“I believe it would be safe for myself, safe for others as well and if it’s done under the supervision of medical personnel, that’d be excellent.” 

Data from Street Connections, the harm-reduction branch of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority indicated in 2022 – 2023  130,728 needles were collected.

“If there’s needles laying around, I wouldn’t want any of my children or grandchildren to be walking around…I wouldn’t want to see a child poked by one of these needles,” said Fountaine. 

Through Street Connections there are several collection programs, including partnerships with 13 community patrol groups, neighbourhood clean-up events, collaboration with the city, and needle pick-up services for private residents. The City is responsible for needle retrieval on public property, but when it comes to municipal needle drop boxes, the number of nine according to Fontaine, is far too low. 

Speaking with CityNews, Fontaine says the number of improperly disposed of needles in Winnipeg is far too high, saying there needs to be more city infrastructure to dispose of the needles. (Morgan Modjeski/CityNews)

“There’s got to be a hell of a lot more.”

Fontaine says he feels a supervised consumption site in Manitoba — which the government outlined $3.9 million in its recent budget — will not only help reduce the number of spent needles on the street but will also save lives in Winnipeg, saying many who use drugs need to be able to access support quickly when ready. 

“Everybody who is using drugs wants to stop using drugs, but they don’t know how.” 

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