By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Regional and city officials believe a collaborative needle-collection pilot program has been, pardon the pun, “on point.”
In July, the City of Oshawa and Durham Region, in partnership with the John Howard Society launched On Point, a program seeing the collection and disposal of used needles in city parks, greenspaces and other public spaces.
The program recently reached the three-month mark at the end of October.
Since July 31, program employees have collected and disposed of more than 4,300 used needles and 15,000 pieces of drug paraphernalia.
The pilot is set to continue until March 31, 2020.
There are seven individuals employed through the program. According to a media release from the city, these workers are “individuals with lived experience of homelessness or substance abuse.”
Participating in the program provides them an opportunity to give back to the community.
In addition to training and employment, On Point employees are provided with housing outreach services and other resources in the hope they will transition to full-time employment.
Both the city and region provided start-up funding for the pilot.
Oshawa chipped in $36,400 for employee wages, while the region provided $63,000 from the Community Homeless Prevention Initiative (CHPI) fund.
Mayor Dan Carter said the success of the pilot is a “two-sided sword.”
While he’s pleased with what he calls improvement to public safety and “community well-being,” Carter says the number of items being collected reflects the bigger issue of increasing substance addiction and abuse.
The mayor says he will continue to advocate to both the provincial and federal governments to declare the ongoing opioid crisis as a “national health epidemic.”
Ultimately, Carter hopes there is no need for a program such as On Point.
But for now, he wants to see it continue come next spring.
“I think it’s shown its value in our community. I can say for sure that we’ve heard from people that they are seeing a big difference in combination with a bunch of other programs,” Carter notes. “We are also seeing Memorial Park has changed dramatically in the past eight to 10 weeks.”
Regional Chair John Henry said he believes the program has been a “great success.”
“It’s thinking outside of the box that helps us resolve some of these issues,” he said.
While Henry said he is in favour of the program continuing, regional staff will need to analyze the data and bring their recommendations to committee next year.