Harm Reduction FAQ

Contact(s)

What is harm reduction? 
Harm reduction is mandated under the Ministry of Health. Harm reduction aims to reduce the negative health, social and economic consequences associated with drug use. It includes a wide range of practices, programs and services that are evidence-based, non-judgmental, non-coercive, and client-centred. Harm reduction also works to reduce stigma associated with drug use and aims to “meet people where they are at.” Some common harm reduction approaches include: naloxone training, nicotine patches, needle exchange services, impaired driving campaigns and providing new drug use equipment. 
Why is safe needle disposal important? 
When needles are discarded improperly in the community, in recycling, garbage, or even in a public place, it is often the result of not having a place to properly dispose of them. By providing a place for people to safely throw out their needles, the community will be kept safer and cleaner. Having a place to properly throw out needles will help reduce the number of needle stick injuries and transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. Safe disposal helps to keep improperly disposed of needles away from children and the public as a whole.
If I see a needle in the community, how do I pick it up? 
The following steps describe how to safely handle and dispose of a needle, which includes steps on how to properly handle and dispose of a needle safely.
  1. Obtain the following equipment:
    • Sharps container or non-breakable, hard-sided puncture-proof container with a lid (such as a plastic pop bottle or coffee can)
    • Disposable or puncture-proof gloves
    • Tongs or forceps
  2. Have the sharps or puncture-proof container nearby to avoid having to walk with the sharp. Place the sharps container on a flat, stable surface next to the sharp.
  3. Put on disposable or puncture-proof gloves. Gloves must be puncture-proof when picking up waste that may contain sharps and when contents cannot be seen (e.g. content is in a plastic shopping bag).
  4. Do not recap needles or try to pick up more than one sharp at a time.
  5. If you are comfortable using tongs, use them to pick up the sharp and place it into the sharps container. If you are not comfortable using the tongs, pick up the sharp by its barrel/shaft (if it is a needle). In both cases, place the sharp into the sharps container, with the sharp end pointing away from you. Keep your free hand out of the way when picking up the sharp.
  6. Place the needle pointing downwards when putting it into the container. Do not hold the container in your hand, or you might accidentally jab yourself during the disposal.
  7. Do not insert your fingers into the opening of the sharps container. Secure the lid of the sharps container.
  8. Remove gloves and wash hands.
  9. Place disposable gloves into the garbage or if puncture-proof gloves were used, wipe down the puncture-proof gloves with a disinfectant wipe and allow them to air dry.
  10. If tongs were used, wipe them down with a disinfectant wipe and allow them to air dry.
  11. Dispose the sharps container into a community sharps bin (resembles a mailbox) or at one of the following locations:
    • North Bay
      • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit (345 Oak St. W.)
      • AIDS Committee of North Bay & Area (269 Main St. W., Suite 201)
      • Ontario Addiction Treatment Centres (466 Ferguson St.)
    • Sturgeon Falls
      • Alliance Centre (172 Ethel St., Unit 3)
      • Community Sharps Bin (corner of Main St. and Queen St.)
    • Parry Sound
      • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit (70 Joseph St.)
      • Ontario Addiction Treatment Centres (32 James St.)
      • Parry Sound Health Centre – FNIHB (74 James St., 2nd Floor) 
What if I’m stuck by a needle in the community?
Community needle stick injuries are rare if a needle is handled and thrown out properly. Risk of disease transmission from a needle stick injury is relatively low (6-30% for hepatitis B, 1.8% for hepatitis C, 0.3% for HIV). If someone is accidentally poked by a needle found in the community they should go to an emergency department as soon as possible to discuss the risks and consider potential options for preventing a blood borne infection. 
 What is a “community sharps bin”?
A community sharps bin is a large metal container that looks similar to a mailbox but is a specific colour, has a biohazard symbol on it and is labelled for needle and sharps disposal. A biohazard bin is placed inside the locked and tamper-proof bin. When the bin is full and needs to be replaced, the inner biohazard bin is removed from the container and exchanged with an empty one. 
What can people put in the community sharps bin?
  • All types of needles and syringes
  • Glass pipes
  • Glass bowls
What types of things should not be placed in a community sharps bin?
Please do not put garbage in the community sharps bin. This includes other drug paraphernalia not listed above (e.g. tourniquets and wrappers). Please throw these items into the garbage can located beside the bin.  
Is the community sharps bin child and tamper-proof? 
Community sharps bins are designed to be childproof and tamper-proof. 
If we want less needles in the community, why don’t agencies limit the number of needles provided to people who use drugs? 
Limiting the number of needles distributed increases the likelihood for individuals who use drugs to share and/or re-use needles. Sharing drug equipment can increase the risk of transmitting HIV, hepatitis C and other infectious agents.
To help reduce the number of needles in the community, couldn’t people who use drugs just re-use their own needles? 
When a needle is used more than once the tip of the needle becomes weakened, and can break off and/or get stuck under the skin. Re-used needles also become dull which can cause pain, bleeding, and/or bruising. After one use, drug equipment is considered to be contaminated and if an individual re-uses their own equipment they risk developing an infection. 
Why is it important that people who use drugs use new needles? 
Using new and un-used needles and syringes each time someone uses drugs is a good way to reduce the incidence of blood borne infections, such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. 
Why is safe needle disposal important? 
Safe disposal of needles helps to prevent accidental exposure to blood borne infections in the community through needle stick injuries.
Will a community sharps bin make the issue of substance use go away?
No; however, a community sharps bin is a harm reduction strategy that is one part of a larger group of efforts to keep communities safer. A community sharps bin is an example of a way to meet people, who are using drugs, where they are at. People use drugs for many reasons. Larger social, environmental and economic conditions (e.g., income, trauma, housing, and social support) may impact on why some people use drugs. Drug use is complex, and it takes time for these conditions to be addressed. A harm reduction measure, like a community sharps bin, aims to minimize risk while broader factors are being delt with.  
A community sharps bin has been put in my neighbourhood, what does this mean? 
As part of harm reduction, it is important to keep the community safe and remove used needles from public places and/or a person’s living space. Community sharps bins are placed within communities to help with ease and convenience of safe disposal. Having a community sharps bin in your neighbourhood is not expected to decrease property value or increase crime. 
How long will the community sharps bin be in the community? 
The bin will remain in the community until further notice.  The bin is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for convenience.
Who is paying for the community sharps bin? 
The community sharps bin is a community project; therefore, a number of local organizations are supporting the costs of installation and sharps disposal. 
How many needles does a community sharps bin hold? 

One community sharps bin is designed to hold 4,100 loose needles, however, it is likely that individuals will return needles in containers. This reduces the number of needles a bin can hold. We strongly encourage that large amounts of needles or needles in puncture-proof containers be returned to community agencies such as: 

  • North Bay
    • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit (345 Oak St. W.)
    • AIDS Committee of North Bay & Area (269 Main St. W., Suite 201)
    • Ontario Addiction Treatment Centres (466 Ferguson St.)
  • Sturgeon Falls
    • Alliance Centre (172 Ethel St., Unit 3)
  • Parry Sound
    • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit (70 Joseph St.)
    • Ontario Addiction Treatment Centres (32 James St.)
    • Parry Sound Health Centre – FNIHB (74 James St., 2nd Floor) 
How often will the community sharps bin be emptied? 
The community sharps bin will be monitored and emptied as required. 

Will people have access to the community sharps bin in the winter?

Yes, the community sharps bin will be accessible in the winter because the bin is located next to a sidewalk where snow removal occurs.
Will there still be needle exchange services in the community? 
Yes, organizations within the community will still offer needle exchange services. It is through these face-to-face interactions that people can make connections with health care providers and gain access to treatment and support services.
  • North Bay
    • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit (345 Oak St. W.)
    • AIDS Committee of North Bay & Area (269 Main St. W., Suite 201)
    • Ontario Addiction Treatment Centres (466 Ferguson St.)
  • Sturgeon Falls
    • Alliance Centre (172 Ethel St. Unit 3)
  • Parry Sound
    • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit (70 Joseph St.)
    • Ontario Addiction Treatment Centres (32 James St.)
    • Parry Sound Health Centre – FNIHB (74 James St., 2nd Floor) 
How many people who use drugs are there in the community? 
There is no way to determine the exact number of individuals who are using drugs. Regardless of the number of people in the community who use substances, harm reduction strategies help to reduce the harms to individuals and communities.  

North Bay

345 Oak Street West
705-474-1400

Parry Sound

70 Joseph Street Unit #302
705-746-5801

Burk's Falls

17 Copeland Street (by appointment only)
1-800-563-2808