Clean Needle Program produces pleasing results

SAFE DISPOSAL: The Clean Needle Program operates when the Sobering Up Unit is open - 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
SAFE DISPOSAL: The Clean Needle Program operates when the Sobering Up Unit is open - 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Recent data from Port Augusta’s Clean Needle Program reports an increase in the number of syringes being returned safely. 

Return rates have improved by 31 percent compared with 25 per cent in the 2016 calendar year.

Presentations to the window for 2017/2018 have decreased by about 10 per cent from the previous year with the number of syringes issued also down by 10 per cent. 

Sobering Up Unit Manager Jo-Anne Newell said the reason for lower presentations to the window could be due to a number of reasons.

“What can happen is that one person will come up who has collected for a few. While presentations are people who are physically coming to the window – they might be collecting for five or six people,” Ms Newell said.

“It could be a good thing because if presentation numbers are down, then so are the number of people using needles or the amount of people requiring them.”

While users are encouraged to bring needles back to the window when they request more, Ms Newell said return numbers may be slightly inaccurate due to the location of a separate return bin located on the outside of the building. 

“I can say with absolute certainty the number that we have handed out because we actually physically hand them out to people,” she said.

“On the return rate, it’s more about whether people remember to say they popped some in our bin before they came, or they might just pop them in the bin and not even tell us that they have done that.”

Statistics also indicated approximately 53 per cent of presentations being of Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander descent, down significantly from the previous year.

Although users are not required to give their names, a number of questions are asked including age, the number of people they are collecting for, whether they are local to Port Augusta or whether they identify as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.

The data is then sent to Adelaide for the funding body to collate.

Due to confidentiality provisions, accurate reason for needle use is unable to be determined. 

Run as part of the Sobering Up Unit, the Clean Needle Program provides clean needles in a non judgmental and discreet manner.

The program also educates drug users on the importance of safe disposal and provides medical, detox and rehabilitation information on request.

“The sobering up unit is open 24/7 which means the Clean Needle Program can be accessed at any time - day or night,” Ms Newell said.

“The bin is outside and we strongly encourage people to put them in there – even if they don’t come and tell us. At least if they are put in there, they aren’t in the community putting other community members at risk.”