Bob Simpson says they are a problem in every community and are a product of the “harm reduction” approach that health authorities and the Provincial Government have taken to prevent the spread of communicable diseases among intravenous drug users…
“So effectively i would argue that they are passing the potential harm onto the community in general, whether it’s a child falling in the playground and getting poked with a needle as we’ve seen in some communities, or individuals inadvertently getting poked with a needle walking in a park or down an alleyway.”
In the absence of direct funding from the province, Simpson says communities are working with volunteer organizations to try and regularly sweep the community to pick these needles up in advance of it becoming a public problem.
“So we’re modelling our approach with the clean team, with the volunteers that are organizing that, on very successful programs in Alberta and Victoria and Vancouver. The idea would be for the clean team to be a stand alone not-for-profit organization, so they are organized and have legal standing. That makes grants available to them. We’ve been successful in getting the clean team here a grant through the Healthy Communities Program for all of the equipment they need to be able to deal with needles safely . We would also like to be able to get some grants to give stipends to the volunteers, so that they are getting paid for real work that they do in our community.”
Simpson says they would like to have a business arrangement with this clean team, the three business improvement areas, and potentially the school district.
He says the city’s Public works crews would still take care of parks and playgrounds, but he would like to see a clean team available for the public to call if they found needles in other areas.
In Quesnel right now, Simpson says the Quesnel Shelter and Support Society has been able to get some base funding for some members of the clean team…
“Right now the program is a bit more ad hoc. There aren’t regular sweeps, they are dealing with things more in a reactive manner, although some members of that clean team are out almost on a daily basis cleaning up areas. We want to get it more formalized, we want to make sure they’ve got sustainable funding, and we want to make it’s part of the routine business of our community to keep it free of those needles as much as possible.”
Simpson says the city has put needle boxes in all of its public washrooms.
He says they are now working with the business associations and the clean team to put needle disposal boxes in some of the more problematic areas in the community.
Simpson says it doesn’t get all of the needles, but it certainly gets the lions share, as much as 80 percent of the needles in an area where people are using illicit drugs and want to dispose of their needles.