Penticton councillors looking for options for controlling needle distribution | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton councillors looking for options for controlling needle distribution

November 05, 2019 - 7:00 PM

The City of Penticton can try writing bylaws to restrict and control needles handed out by Interior Health as a life-saving, harm-reduction measure, but it's chances of success aren't good.

Councillors asked staff for options on how to handle needles, particularly after a child stepped on a needle at a public beach earlier this year. 

City staff told councillors today, Nov. 5, the city could introduce a bylaw regulating distribution of needles in Penticton, but Ministry of Health approval would be needed.

Bylaw services supervisor Tina Siebert said staff were aware of the restrictive nature of such a bylaw, which could be seen as contrary to best practices and harm reduction, leading to a rise in HIV and hepatitis in the community.

"There are other ways to limit the distribution that may not be against harm reduction practices," Siebert said, pointing out such possibilities as defined distribution sites, limiting distribution to retractable needles only, or having distributing agencies mark needles to encourage more accountablility.

A more complete summary of options would be presented to council at a future meeting, Siebert said. She reiterated local health authority approval would be needed for this type of bylaw.

Planning manager Blake Laven said staff have been meeting with Interior Health officials on a regular basis.

"Not surprisingly, Interior Health is interested in alternatives to any bylaw that would restrict people's access to harm reduction supplies," he said.

He said the city and Interior Health have also been meeting with other stakeholders in the community to help develop alternatives to a regulatory bylaw.

The request for the staff report on sharps came after an incident on Skaha Lake Beach earlier this year in which a child stepped on a needle.

Interior Health gave an in-depth presentation regarding Interior Health’s response to the needle issue at the July 2 council meeting, initiating discussions that are ongoing.

Staff say the city has spent approximately $20,000 in responding to the sharps issue between bylaw, solid waste disposal and legal budgets.

Today's report was accepted as informational, pending a comprehensive report to council in early 2020 that would include all options and a draft bylaw.

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