Penticton city council learns no easy solution needle recovery | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton city council learns no easy solution needle recovery

Penticton city council chambers was packed with residents listening to a presentation by members of Interior Health at today's council meeting, July 2, 2019.
July 02, 2019 - 5:09 PM

PENTICTON - Interior Health representatives met with Penticton city council today to discuss the problems associated with the collection of 167,000 needles handed out annually in the city.

A delegation from Interior Health met with city council this afternoon, July 2, to discuss harm reduction methods and calm health fears associated with discarded needles in the city.

Medical health officer Dr. Karin Goodison, mental health and substance use health service administrator Donna Jansons and regional harm reduction coordinator Lesley Coates said the needles were being dispensed by seven agencies in Penticton to the city’s approximately 440 addicts. They said one to 10 per cent of 167,000 needles were not disposed of through proper sites.

Council was told the present overdose crisis is big enough to have started to affect men’s life expectancy in British Columbia. In 2018, 15 deaths in Penticton were attributed to overdose.

The message of discarded needles being a very low risk to public health continued following an incident a couple of weeks ago where a young girl playing at Skaha Beach was stuck by a discarded needle.

A collaborative approach to the pickup of discarded sharps is currently in use and advocated by health officials, who noted a collection strategy has been in effect since 2018. A new citizen’s group, Project Penticton, recently started up to assist in the cleanup of needles in public places.

Coun. Judy Sentes expressed an interest in the development of a supervised injection site, noting there was “still a risk” in having discarded needles in the community, not to mention the negative publicity the issue generated for a city that depended on tourism to such a large degree.

Coun. Campbell Watt said any amount of risk was “not good enough.” He said Interior Health needed to find “a better way,” suggesting a re-examination of an exchange program.

Mayor John Vassilaki also voiced concerns about the number of needles uncollected in the community.

Coun. Julius Bloomfield noted Portugal’s drug addiction issues, where he said one per cent of the population were addicts.

“Is there an addiction crisis in B.C.?” he asked, suggesting Penticton’s drug-addicted represent around 1.3 per cent of the city’s population, based on Interior Health figures.

The possibility of using retractable needles was also mostly dismissed due to costs and more complicated handling methods that increased rather than decreased the chance of being poked.

Following the presentation, Coun. Katie Robinson put forward a notice of motion directing staff to review and report back with options to regulate the distribution and collection of sharps in the city.

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