With the tri-government Illicit Drug Task Force set to release its 30 page report, it will be interesting to see whether important details I brought to light about free needle programs and the handling of unsafe used needles dumped around Winnipeg are incorporated into the findings and recommendations.
They should be, since everytime I turned around, some official or other (including city councilors, MLA's and provincial health officials) were stunned at what I was uncovering about the trail meth users were leaving and lack of data being collected.
[WE ARE LOOKING FOR SUPPORT FROM 100 READERS WHO THINK INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM MATTERS. OUR WORK MAKES A DIFFERENCE. YOUR $50 CAN HELP KEEP THIS WORK GOING DETAILS BELOW THE STORY]
In a series of columns published by Manitoba Post starting last March, I revealed that the provincial public housing authority – after some prodding by a well-placed contact involved in health care policy – elaborated on some murky answers they gave me when I began investigating the Free Needle Exchange Program and the overall scourge of discarded rigs in Winnipeg neighborhoods.
Manitoba Housing produced a spreadsheet of their properties that has a used needle container on-site.
The total was 81. And that's just locations, not the total number of sharp bins.
By comparison - and not disconnected to my ongoing investigation - the City has finally gotten up to about 20.
I've never heard that comparison reported in mainstream media, have you?
In the course of my research, I have corresponded with Manitoba Housing, the WRHA, concerned medical professionals, business and property owners, residents, and working people employed within the community at large.
I reported in a follow-up column about Manitoba Housing that they told me when someone calls 311, the City of Winnipeg provides people a referral to deal with used needles they found on their private property.
I discovered that was 100% false, the City doesn't direct callers to any help with needle pick-up:
(The City had other secrets it didn't want told, a story for another day. But it's the need to get this story and others like it out, that proves why our comeback to blogging and podcasting was needed.
To read more and donate https://tgcts.blogspot.com/2019/06/theres-2-elections-coming-up-so-were.html )
My reports stirred the public. On the Manitoba Post Facebook page, a reader said “You don't need an Excel spreadsheet. All Winnipeg Housing and Manitoba Housing properties have a Meth issue. “
Another reader said she was taking the column to the advisory board for Central Neighborhoods Winnipeg and confirmed “There is no signage in MB housing buildings on who to contact in regards of finding needles.”
In March, I compiled a list of 5 recommendations that my health policy contact funneled to the Task Force. I was assured at least 3 members of the Meth Task Force have reviewed my submission.
So, here's what I came up with to enhance public safety.
I proposed that Manitoba Housing assist in collecting data about used needles, where they're found, and how many, which is required to inform good health policy. I also laid out steps to rectify deficiencies in Manitoba Housing health and safety practices and enshrine some transparency.
1) Provide collection/disposal containers at all managed properties.
2) Post signage directing staff, residents and visitors to where the collection containers are located. There is signage about how to dispose of sharps into the bins but it's directed only to employees.
3) Signage should instruct tenants and visitors to contact a designated person to report discarded needles left on the property. That signage should include an email address, a phone number, and if possible directions to an on-site written notification deposit box that will be be emptied/reviewed daily.
4) Ensure any agreement with Street Connections (or any other agency) for needle pick-up EXPLICITLY REQUIRES that needles removed from its properties are counted / estimated by weight. That figure must be reported to MH and the WRHA, AND made available for public review WITHOUT requiring a FIPPA application.
5) Proactively develop and implement an action plan to mitigate the potential and actual danger and damage to the general community adjacent to its properties being caused by their tenants and guests discarding needles onto public (ie City of Winnipeg) and private property.
I will be glad to discuss my research and concerns with anyone who is involved in this field, especially with all members of the Meth Task Force, co-chaired by Deputy Minister of Health Karen Herd and Winnipeg Chief Corporate Services Officer Michael Jack.
Manitoba Housing was not represented on the Task Force, which in light of my findings about the depth of their involvement in needle collection and disposal in Winnipeg was a staggering omission.
... Now, about that drive to find 100 donors -
IT'S A SIMPLE IDEA - THERE MUST BE 100 TAXPAYERS, ACTIVISTS, NEWS CONSUMERS, WHO WANT THESE SCOOPS AND UNIQUE ANALYSIS BROUGHT FORWARD TO THE PUBLIC IN WINNIPEG AND THINK IT'S WORTH 50 BUCKS.
Join the folks who already took a stand for OUR citizen journalism.
BEFORE CANADA DAY, YOU CAN JOIN THE 100 CLUB:
- A $50 DONATION funds basic costs for equipment, internet, parking and gas, etc. and helps keep the lights on
- MORE reporting on town halls
- MORE asking direct questions of policy and decision makers
- MORE issues important to you - like dirty needles all over the place - get put on the table
Email TGCTS1@gmail.com for other payment options including etransfer or a personal visit for pick up
On the fence?
Ask yourself- Did a single newsroom report what was going on with used needles at public housing locations?
That's why citizen journalism exists. That's why Winnipeg needs it.
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