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Porvoo's drug needle disposal bin programme off to good start

An official said it was too early to call the effort a success since the bins were installed at the end of last summer.

 Annika Immonen står vid ett insamlingskärl för sprutor.
Porvoo's social and health department's adult services director, Annika Immonen, at one of the city's five drug needle disposal bins. Image: Yle/Mikael Kokkola

The quiet, southern coastal city of Porvoo is a popular tourist destination with around 50,000 residents, but some of those who live there are intravenous drug users who have been discarding used syringes in public spaces.

The city is reaching the second phase of a pilot programme that aims to keep parks and other outdoor areas free of the sharp instruments.

Vinkki, a local resource centre for intravenous drug users, aims to reduce the danger of reusing needles by providing addicts with sterile ones.

The centre hands out 6,000 to 8,000 needles each month, and gets back about 6,000 needles after they've been used. The centre's syringe disposal bin pilot involved installing five needle collection bins across the city last August.

According to Porvoo's social and health department's adult services director, Annika Immonen, the trial has gotten off to a good start, but it is still too early to draw conclusions.

Needle exchange prevents disease

"It sounds a little dramatic, but the bins are for drug users. They were installed so that they can easily throw out their needles safely," Immonen explained.

"At the same time that [Vinkki] distributes the needles, workers are able to see what condition clients are in and also give them health advice," Immonen said.

Sharing used syringes is known to transmit serious ailments like hepatitis, a chronic disease that costs around 5,000 euros per year to treat per patient.

Meanwhile, Immonen said, the centre spends only around 4,800 euros annually for the medical supplies - mostly syringes - that it goes through.

Vinkki is also responsible for maintaining and emptying the five sharps bins around the city, but they haven't needed emptying since they were installed at the beginning of autumn, according to Immonen.

Most of the used syringes have been returned to Vinkki directly rather than left in outdoor bins. Immonen said that was likely because addicts inject drugs outdoors more commonly during the warmer months of the year.

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