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VIDEO: Kamloops needle buyback program helps protect addicts' privacy

Workers put in a sharps disposal bin on 26 Avenue in Vernon.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Alexi Ashlynne Carter
August 16, 2018 - 1:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - What started off as an initiative to clean up used sharps and needles from the streets of Kamloops has turned into a bigger project for the founders of the city's first needle buyback program.

Caroline King is one of the two volunteers who started the program in an effort to reduce the number of improperly disposed of needles in the area. She says since they launched the program back in June, they have seen all kinds of people returning sharps and needles.

One man recently stopped by with four months worth of needles that he and his girlfriend had gone through.

"I'd seen him walk by a few times and he came up and said 'are you going to be here for a bit?' and I said 'yeah' and he left and came back," King says.

He returned with three boxes filled with approximately 800 needles. King posted a video of the needles to Facebook (scroll down to check it out at the bottom of this story).

She says the man works in the area and just wanted a private place to return the needles.

"He didn't care about the money, he wasn't interested," she says. "He just wanted a place to dispose of them that didn't involve being seen by peers or employers."

King says their service has been reaching more than street-level intravenous drug users. They see people who don't want to go to ASK Wellness or an Interior Health facility because they don't want anything to do with street-level support.

"They use street-level drugs but they're not willing to dispose of (the needles) in a street-level way," she says. "Maybe they have to admit they might have something in common with that and they don't want that connection, so there are two different types of users out there."

A delegation from the Interior Health Authority made a presentation to Kamloops city council earlier this week, concerned about the effectiveness of needle buyback programs.

"(Interior Health) is saying everyone is coming to us because it's turning into a cash thing, and we're not seeing that at all," King says. "I have users that throw their needles in the bucket and storm away."

King says they also take the opportunity to inform people about the industrial yellow bins for used sharps Interior Health has put in place in communities across the Interior as part of their harm reduction program.

She says they are trying to come up with new ideas and work with community organizations on how to get more users to return needles. She says they are specifically trying to target the younger generation of users.

"There are about 60 people in the area that we deal with and those seem to be the people that we can't get no matter what we try, we can't seem to get them to pick up (their needles)."

Watch the video below of a man who disposed of four months worth of needles at the buyback program in Kamloops.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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