The HSE is to increase the number of needle bins in Cork city centre to reduce the volume of used drug paraphernalia discarded in the city.
It is also supportive of developing a supervised injecting centre in the city centre in the near future as part of a multi-faceted approach to reducing the number of heroin users in the Cork and Kerry region.
David Lane, the HSE’s coordinator of drug and alcohol services for Cork and Kerry, told the Irish Examiner that there are currently 500 people engaging with treatment clinics in the southern region.
There are currently two biohazard bins in the city centre in Cork.
One of these was recently removed from Charlemont Terrace, just off the Wellington Road, which is largely comprised of residential properties and schools.
It had been in place for almost two years and had been a source of contention for some in the local community.
In that time, the volume of discarded used needles in the area was all but eliminated, Mr Lane said.
“The biohazard bin is not being used at the moment so we are keen to get it back into use very quickly.
"It was always planned to be a temporary fixture in any area,” he said.
“In one month before the biohazard bin was introduced, there were 77 used needles found by our outreach worker in the Wellington Road area. That was reduced to nothing within a matter of months.
“It is not that the bin solved the problem but we did see a reduction of disposals in a public way, such as on the steps. It is part of a multi-faceted approach.
"An important element of our work is engaging with needle users to get them treatment and to get them off heroin. Our outreach workers continue to do that.”
Local investigations have indicated that many users have moved on from the Wellington Road area in recent months, Mr Lane said.
That said, Mr Lane said that the HSE has identified a new location for the biohazard bin and that he expects it to be in place by "the end of the month".
He did not elaborate on where the bin will be located. However, he did confirm that there are plans to introduce two more biohazard bins in Cork city by the end of the year.
It is part of a strategy to clamp down on the broader issue of needle use in the city area.
“There are currently two in the city and we are hoping to add two more in the next twelve months,” Mr Lane said.
“In addition, we remain part of a task force that is looking at the possibility of a medically-supervised injecting centre in the coming years. Dublin is facing challenges introducing its facility and they can be quite expensive to operate, but the support is still there.”
Mr Lane said that there has been little change in the numbers attending treatment clinics in the southern region in the last twelve months.
“We have clinics which would be primarily based in Cork city and Tralee, covering the Cork and Kerry region,” he said.
“There are about 500 people attending these clinics but we have to remember that there are also more who are not engaging with these services and we need to continue to try and get those people to engage and get help.”