Shaundra Bruvall | October 16, 2019
Since the initiation of the Calgary Alpha House Society (Alpha House) Needle Response Team, Alpha House and The City of Calgary have collaborated through a targeted, ongoing response to needle debris, that includes proactive patrols and the redistribution of City-managed needle boxes.
Sharing data on collection volume and common needle debris locations has enabled Alpha House’s Needle Response Team to patrol proactive locations while continuing to respond to calls for disposal of needle debris on public and private property. Through ongoing efforts to collect data, Alpha House will continue to proactively monitor areas to adapt field patrols. Alpha House has also initiated an incentive where peer support workers take part in the Needle Response Team on proactive patrols.
“Approximately 60 per cent of all needles collected are done so through patrols and our peer support program,” said Adam Melnyk, Outreach Manager, Alpha House. “In the first six months of operation, the needle response team collected a volume of 6,570 needles, playing a vital role in our community, while building community. Through our peer support, individuals with lived experience are able to give back by working with our team.”
From March to May 2019, the Calgary Fire Department conducted a needle debris response overview with Alpha House and other community partners, to identify the volume of needle debris collected across the city and the locations in which the debris was concentrated. In this time period, 4,567 needles were picked up across the city, with the majority of the proactive and reactive responses occurring centrally. The Calgary Fire Department is currently installing redistributed needle debris boxes to areas of focus based on the data analysis.
“Through collaboration, we recognized the need for added needle debris boxes, identified priority locations, and are working on the immediate installation in these areas,” said Carol Henke, Public Information Officer, Calgary Fire Department. “Fire crews are monitoring needle boxes regularly and this will allow us to continue to enhance our response efficiencies.”
There are currently 22 needle debris boxes that are managed by the Calgary Fire Department in different locations across the city. Up to 5 needle boxes are currently being re-located or added based on the data analysis.
Alpha House is an important partner with The City of Calgary in responding to needle debris. Since the January 2019 inception of Alpha House’s Needle Response Team, the Calgary Fire Department has responded to 906 calls for needle debris, totaling 226 per cent less than received in 2018.
“Alpha House, a community organization, leading the local needle response, is proving crucial in alleviating first responders to tend to other emergency calls across Calgary,” said Henke.
“The response from the community is very positive, as this is a cost-effective approach to public safety concerns and the work extends to cooperation with other agencies as we focus on educating businesses and individuals about safely picking up needles, while engaging with these communities,” said Melnyk.
A more effective coordinated response with partners has resulted in the collection of 22,469needles between January 2019 to August 31, 2019 in Calgary.
Alpha House’s Needle Response Team can be reached at 403-796-5334 (via call or text) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org from Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
During the Needle Response Team’s after hours of operation, The Calgary Fire Department continues to respond to needle debris on public property or near school yards and playgrounds or needles that pose safety risk on private property. The Calgary Fire Department can be contacted by calling 9-1-1 or the non-emergency line at 403-264-1022.
For more information on The City of Calgary’s Community Action on Mental Health and Addiction, visit Calgary.ca/communityaction.