SUDBURY -- Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing is providing a community sharps bin in North Bay, the group announced Friday.

The community sharps bin, located at 361 McIntyre St. East, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Only loose sharps (e.g., needles) or sharps in a puncture-proof container be put into the bin, the centre said in a news release.

"When used sharps are discarded improperly, such as in recycling, garbage or even in a public place, it is often the result of not having a place to properly dispose of them," the release said. "Providing a place for people to safely discard sharps helps keep the community safer for everyone."

Garbage and other drug-use equipment, such as wrappers, water and tourniquets, should be thrown in the garbage can located near the bin.

Harm reduction

Harm-reduction services, such as needle syringe services and sharps drop-off, will still be available at the health unit's North Bay office, the AIDS Committee of North Bay & Area and other locations throughout the city.

The Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing provides addictions and concurrent disorders services for individuals and families in the community, including programs for Indigenous peoples and youth.

The centre is the lead agency for Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) in North Bay. The RAAM clinic provides addiction medicine to people struggling with alcohol or opiate use disorders.

"Addictions treatment is grounded in harm reduction, a philosophy that is pragmatic, evidence-based, and client-centred," the release said. "Harm reduction services aim to build relationships with individuals in an effort to improve health equity and restore human dignity. Harm reduction services meet people where they are at providing support to individuals until broader health, economic and social factors that contribute to substance use can be addressed."

Brooke Bertrand, manager of addictions services and member of the North Bay and Area Community Drug Strategy, said their goal is to match clients with services when they are ready to access them.

"It is our vision that the installation of the sharps bin will positively impact the health and safety of North Bay citizens by removing used sharps from the streets, increase health equity to marginalized people, reduce systemic stigma, and demonstrate a practical harm reduction response for people who use substances,” Bertrand said.

Complex issue

The community sharps bin will complement existing needle syringe programs in North Bay, the release said. Needle syringe programs aim to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences associated with substance use.

“The reasons why individuals use substances are complex. Personal, social, economic and environmental factors often influence why someone might use substances,” said Katharine O’Connell, community health promoter at the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit and member of the North Bay and Area Community Drug Strategy.

These factors are called the social determinants of health. Lack of education, unemployment/poor working conditions and lack of adequate housing; social environment (e.g., safe neighbourhood, family violence), decreased access to social support and health services; and personal factors such as gender, personal skills (e.g., resiliency), ethnic background and biology/genetics can play a role in problematic substance use and addictions.

By addressing the social determinants of health, working with community partners and providing services that help to address barriers to health, individuals can overcome these barriers. By offering services such as the community sharps bins and needle syringe programs, the community will be safer for all, the release said.