SUDBURY -- There's a good chance if you've walked down a downtown street in the last little bit, you've come across a discarded needle.

The Sudbury Action Centre for Youth (SACY) is reporting a dramatic increase in discarded needles being found compared to this time last year.

In May alone, volunteers removed more than 21,000 needles from city streets.

"With COVID restrictions in place, it's really shaped and shifted as far as far as peoples' experiences on the streets and homelessness as well," said Joel Boivin, SACY'S Manager of Harm Reduction Services. "Many folks are spending their day in the streets as well as parks and other parts of the downtown."

What's changed this year is the sharp-increase in how many needles their teams have been finding and cleaning up. Needles not making it into the marked yellow bins.

"It's not so much that needle use has necessarily increased from the epidemic, however folks lives are exposed to public eye more traditionally than they have before the epidemic," said Boivin.

Boivin says they've had volunteers, who aren't even official volunteers, out on their bikes helping to clean up certain parts of the city.

"A lot of it has to do with peoples' lives being much more public and out on the streets so as to where those needles are being found, they're going to be found in much more public spaces so among the first few places that we started seeing, with many of our folks living diversified throughout the city and in much more sparse areas like New Sudbury, the Valley and things like that is people being inside more. That's translated into .... well they might not be coming down to the needle exchange downtown or they might not be going out to where there's a bio bin. We've been finding them in places like bus shelters and things like that,' he explained.

SACY and other agencies have been re-doubling their efforts to tackle the clean-up of the needles.

Boivin says they've seen some areas of the downtown double in the number of needles being found. They've also attended some spots twice a day, where they know they'll collect at least 100 needles every time.

He adds they called an emergency meeting of agencies in the city to see how they could best address the issue of additional needles being found and if there were ways to increase collection.

One of those agencies, Réseau Access Network, will be sending out two community workers as part of its 'Peer Program' to help with collection. They'll also be armed with Naloxone kits in the event that they're needed.

"The reality is people use drugs all over the city, people of all socio-economic backgrounds, and they inject drugs as well so we are going to keep seeing it throughout the city.," said Kaela Pelland, Réseau's Peer Engagement Recruiter.

Pelland says they've been recruiting those people who have used drugs or are using drugs to rely on that shared experience, in a bid to combat the epidemic. 

They've currently recruited 20 plus individuals to take part in the program starting next Thursday, and they're still on the lookout for more help.

Public Health Sudbury and Districts along with the city have continued their work behind the scenes at trying to get supervised consumption services set up in one fashion or another.