Vernon to map hotspots, look at disposal resources after hundreds of discarded needles found | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon to map hotspots, look at disposal resources after hundreds of discarded needles found

October 25, 2016 - 2:30 PM

VERNON - The number of discarded needles being found in Vernon continues to climb. 

In the first six months of 2016, roughly 700 used and unused needles were found in public spaces, a significant increase over past years.

During a presentation Monday, Oct. 24, the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan’s Annette Sharkey said the rise is part of a trend in the types of drugs people are using.

One of those drugs, whether people know they are consuming it or not, is fentanyl, a substance said to be 100 times more potent than heroin.

“We are in an absolute crisis in our province,” Sharkey said. “The number of overdoses… it’s exponential.”

According to the B.C. Coroners Service, the number of drug related deaths in the province so far this year has already surpassed the total in all of 2015. That includes 47 fentanyl-related deaths in the Interior Health region so far this year.

While the volume of needles being found in Vernon is a concern, Sharkey said it’s important that harm reduction supplies continue to be offered in the community. The Vernon Street Nurse program currently provides a needle exchange. 

“We don’t want to stop people from having access to clean needles,” Sharkey said.

Sharkey said the Interior Health Authority has asked community agencies to help collect data on the cost and resources required to deal with needle disposal in Vernon, as well as mapping of the hotspots where discarded needles are being found. The health authority has also been asked to discuss the overdose crisis and general impact of substance use on the community with Vernon council at a future date.

Interior Health is currently seeking public input on safe consumption sites in Kamloops and Kelowna.

Outreach agencies conduct multiple needle clean-ups throughout the year in Vernon, and residents are also being encouraged to educate themselves on safe needle disposal in case they come across one in the community. The Community Policing Office says it’s much better to safely pick up and dispose of a needle rather than leave it on the ground where someone else — possibly a child — could come into contact with it. For more information about how to safely pick up and dispose of a needle, click here.

“Although finding a needle in a public space is a trauma — I understand that, especially if you’re a parent — the chance of transmission is extremely low. (We’re) working with the community to understand that, but again balancing that with it’s not okay to find needles in your playground or in your park,” Sharkey said.

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