Advocates of a once controversial needle exchange and collection program say Calgary’s Safeworks initiative is exhibiting positive signs.

Safeworks was introduced in the late 1990s in an attempt to provide drug users with safe, clean needles from health professionals.

The program, run by Alberta Health Services, disperses needles at locations including the Calgary Drop-In Centre and throughout the streets of downtown Calgary and surrounding neighbourhoods in mobile centres run by nurses.

Thirty special needle collection boxes, placed in strategic locations, offer users a place to dispose their used needles.

Calgary Fire Department officials say they’ve collected a significant number of syringes from the boxes in the past few years.

“The program is working,” explains CFD spokesperson Carol Henke, “Every year we are collecting thousands of needles out of these safe needle boxes.”

Debbie Newman, executive director of the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre. says the collection boxes have been a positive addition to Calgary’s landscape.

“It's a harm reduction approach where you're removing needles from the street and providing a safe place for them to be so nobody gets hurt,” explains Newman.

The AHS Safeworks Harm Reduction Program has distributed more than 1.8 million needles since 2011. AHS does not provide safe injection sites.