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Partnership reduces Calgary needle debris calls to CFD by more than 220 per cent

More than 22,400 needles have been collected in a yearlong partnership between the Alpha House and city firefighters to address Calgary needle debris.

The combined effort has also resulted in more than 900 fewer needle calls to the Calgary Fire Department – or 226 per cent – compared with 2018.

“Alpha House, a community organization, leading the local needle response, is proving crucial in alleviating first responders to tend to other emergency calls across Calgary,” said CFD Assistant Deputy Chief Deb Bergeson, in a prepared release.

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The Calgary Alpha House Society Needle Response Team has been in operation since July. The two organizations have been sharing data on common Calgary needle debris locations and the volume. Patrols have used it to collect and dispose of the needles and to redeploy needle collection boxes.

“Approximately 60 per cent of all needles collected are done so through patrols and our peer support program,” said Adam Melnyk, Outreach Manager, Alpha House.

“In the first six months of operation, the needle response team collected a volume of 6,570 needles, playing a vital role in our community, while building community.”

Calgary needle boxes redeployed based on data

Twenty-two needle debris boxes are managed by the Calgary Fire Department. Five are being relocated based on the collected data.

“The response from the community is very positive, as this is a cost-effective approach to public safety concerns and the work extends to cooperation with other agencies as we focus on educating businesses and individuals about safely picking up needles, while engaging with these communities,” said Melnyk.

Alpha House’s Needle Response Team can be reached at 403-796-5334 (via call or text) or email at needle@alphahousecalgary.com from Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Outside of those hours, the Calgary Fire Department continues to respond to needle concerns on public property or near school yards and those needles that pose a safety risk on private property.

Call 9-1-1 or the CFD non-emergency line at 403-264-1022 for help.