The Cape Breton Regional Municipality and its police commission are considering installing collection kiosks for used needles in every community in the region, following a presentation Tuesday from health advocates.
The kiosks, which are designed like locked mailboxes, allow intravenous drug users to safely discard needles and syringes.
Over the past five years, the non-profit Ally Centre has helped to place kiosks in eight different locations across the municipality: Sydney Mines, Glace Bay, New Waterford, downtown Sydney and four in Eskasoni First Nation.
Of the 608,000 needles collected by the Ally Centre's needle exchange program last year, 78,000 came from those boxes. The director of the organization, Christine Porter, said the numbers prove needle collection, like garbage pickup, is "a necessity."
"That's quite a lot of sharps if you were to pile them up in the middle of the room," Porter said. "Beaches, parks, particularly where children gather — that's where needles cause the most community disruption."
Porter said the boxes could be distributed in areas that have municipal trash cans, where many of the needles end up.
"People will drop needles in those garbage bins along the boardwalks and parks," she said. "If they're in an actual disposal box, and handled the way they should be handled, there's a lot less danger in maintaining those containers."
Porter was one of six health advocates who gave officials a two-hour presentation on harm reduction — strategies to reduce inconsistencies and stigmas around substance abuse treatment.
"I wasn't aware there were so few," Mayor Cecil Clarke said of the number of needle kiosks.
He said eight is inadequate and "we see that reflected in what's being disposed of in back parking lots or park areas, so these are things we need to address."
Clarke said the municipality and the police commission will now begin to consider the details of where to place additional kiosks and how to safely collect and dispose of the needles.