Parents of children who attend the HeadStart pre-school program at the Town of Wabana Complex on Bell Island are outraged after a dirty needle was found in the main washroom of the facility Thursday morning.
Though children attending the pre-school do not use the main washroom, parents are concerned a needle could end up in another area that is used by the children.
The Town of Wabana Complex houses the town council offices, council chambers and the pre-school.
The Drug Awareness Group — a support group for addicts, families and friends of addicts — has also been holding weekly meetings in the complex. That, argue many parents, should not happen in the same building with a pre-school.
When Kayla Marie Coombs posted the issue to Facebook, it generated a lot of discussion. Coombs’ daughter attends the pre-school.
“The pre-school teachers were only told that there was a needle found. Not that there is the possibility of that blood contaminating any door handles or knobs and floors or anything that they had to touch when entering or leaving the building,” she said.
“The Drug Awareness Group that took place (Wednesday) night was obviously housing a user that could not wait until they were out of the building before injecting. This group has the purpose of helping each other get clean by telling their stories and getting help for those who need it and finding comfort in being surrounded by people who also want to get help and get clean. But sadly, you cannot help those that do not want to be helped.”
Wabana Mayor Gary Gosine is one of the organizers of the Drug Awareness Group meetings in which education and support are provided. Gosine lost his own nephew to a drug overdose in February 2017.
He said measures are being taken to deal with the needle situation.
“There was a dirty needle found in the washroom of the Wabana Town Complex Thursday and the washroom hadn’t been cleaned since Tuesday, so we are not sure when it got there. We did have a meeting there the prior night, so we are not sure if someone from our meeting used it or if it was someone from the general public,” Gosine said.
“We have a dropbox now in place in the washroom. Drug addiction counsellors were called to follow up at a meeting in the near future. The RCMP was called and told about the situation.”
Gosine said they will do all they can to make sure it doesn’t happen again. He noted, however, the drug awareness group is providing an important service.
“We are hoping to meet again next Wednesday, the 46th meeting of the group. All we are trying to do is support the users out there in the community, and support the parents for somebody to talk to. I feel we are doing good in the community.”
Keshia Ryan’s daughter has attended the HeadStart pre-school for the past three years. Her son also attended HeadStart before beginning kindergarten.
“There is no guarantee (the needle) came from the meeting the night before as it is a public building, but the building is only open until 4 p.m. daily and doesn’t open again until 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. the next morning,” Ryan said. “The meeting happened after-hours, about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. When the building closed at 4 p.m. there was nothing there, but the next morning at 8:15 a.m., it was discovered.
“I was happy it was found in the washroom the children don’t use, but this might not be an isolated incident. Who knows to say the next time it won’t be found somewhere the kids have access to? That’s my main concern. I know we can come into contact with that anywhere, but when I send my child to school that’s one place that I should feel she is safe. And now I don’t.”
The cleaner who found the needle made a post to Facebook to reassure parents that after the needle was discovered, it was disposed of properly and the whole area was sanitized. The cleaner said the needle was located on the brush that is used to clean the toilet.
Coombs is adamant that both programs — the daycare and the drug awareness group — should not take place in the same building, even though they are never held at the same times.
“The room that the group uses shares a hallway with the daycare,” she said. “Who is to say a needle won’t be found in the hallway at some point. We have these risks happening there. One of the programs should be placed somewhere else. If this happened in St. John’s, people would not send their children to the daycare.”