Nipawin council has rejected a recommendation from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to install a Safe Supply vending machine on town property at no cost to the town.
The Safe Supply vending machine would allow access to a needle exchange, inhalation materials, condoms, education and information.
The vote on Oct. 12 to allow the machine on town property saw councillors Geoff Stewart, Jan Boughen and Sheila Seiferling temporarily leave the meeting and abstain due to being employed in healthcare. The remaining councillors voted unanimously to reject the SHA’s proposal.
In the recommendation to the town, Rhonda Teichreb, SHA primary health care manager, said the machine is a response to what she called “growing concerns with problematic substance abuse” in the Nipawin area.
“For the past several years, a Harm Reduction Working Group has come together in the Nipawin area to respond to growing concerns with substance abuse use,” Teichreb wrote.
“Access to harm reduction supplies is an effective intervention associated with reduction in HIV, Hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.”
The vending machine, which is funded through Health Canada, requires a concrete pad, framed roof/shelter and electricity. Possible locations identified by the SHA include near the town square podium or at the Nipawin Water Works building.
Barry Elliott, Nipawin’s administrator, said council expressed that they felt it would be “better suited on SHA property.”
“It seems as though it’s more appropriate that it would be on SHA property. It’s dealing with potential biohazards, etc. They’re far better equipped at dealing with it than the town, we’re not biohazard experts by any stretch,” Elliott said.
“When we encounter things we’re very cautious how we approach it. We believe the SHA is better positioned to monitor that and make sure the materials are being collected or handled safely.”
In 2019, Rennie Harper, Nipawin’s mayor, lobbied the province to develop Saskatchewn-wide protocols to address the disposal of used needles after two incidents involving needles occurred in Nipawin. The first incident involved a waste disposal employee being poked by a needle while lifting a garbage bag on the job and another where a dozen used needles plus tubing were found improperly placed in a recycling bin.
At that time, Elliott said used needles being thrown out improperly was a “serious problem.”
On Oct. 13, Elliott said that while the town is still dealing with improper materials being put in recycling, there haven’t been needles as of late.
Jessica Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal