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City and region come together to clean up parks

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter.

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

In the continuous fight against opioid abuse, a new campaign has launched to clean up city parks of used needles.

The City of Oshawa is partnering with Durham Region and the John Howard Society to launch On Point, a used needle collection pilot program. It was recently during a ceremony at Memorial Park.

The project will also provide employment and support opportunities to participants who’ve experienced homelessness.

Participants will be supervised, and provided safety kits and training to assist with the clean up.

Those participating will also get access to housing outreach services and other resources.

The pilot will run until March 31, 2020,and the effectiveness will be analyzed afterwards.

“The On Point was proposed by the Oshawa Unsheltered Residents (OUR) task force,” explained regional chair John Henry. “The task force was established in July 2018 to address the issues of ‘unsheltered’ residents in Oshawa.”

The task force includes representatives from the city, region and John Howard Society, Carea Community Health Centre, Cornerstone, Durham Regional Police Services, and other social service organizations.

“Great results are achieved when we come together and we share our expertise,” said Henry.

During the program launch, Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter spoke of the desperation the opioid crisis is causing across the province, and all of Canada.

Between January 2016 and September 2018, more than 10,300 Canadians died due to an overdose.

“Our community, like any community across the province of Ontario, is dealing with individuals who have complex issues, including mental health, addiction issues, homelessness, and we have to do everything we possibly can,” said Carter.

Carter, who has personally experienced homelessness and drug addiction, promised every effort will be made to address the crisis on a local level.

“My council and myself and our city staff are so committed in regards to finding solutions and in regards to how we find a path forward in regards to this crisis,” he said.

Ward 3 regional councillor Bob Chapman said the opioid crisis and the issue of homelessness is not just a healthcare and social services issue, but is something everyone needs to address.

“We have a collective responsibility to ensure that all Durham residents feel secure,” he said.

Beth Whalen, the coordinator of harm reduction services at John Howard Society, said there is an increasing issue with discarded needles and other drug paraphernalia.

“These issues seem to have become more prominent with the growing number of unhoused residents in the city,” she explained. “This program [will allow] us to actively seek out and safely dispose of substance abuse equipment.”

Carter told the crowd he expects the pilot will not only be a success, but will continue on after it ends.

“I am confident that this program will not be a pilot program, but an ongoing program,” said Carter.