Williams Lake City council has agreed to support and initiate a community-wide safety disposal program and allocate $1,500 for the purchase and installation of up to 15 accessible biohazard sharps containers.
Councillor Scott Nelson made the recommendation at Tuesday’s committee of Whole Council meeting following a presentation by CMHA’s acquired brain injury coordinator and supported opportunities manager Alyisha Knapp.
“We know that it’s an issue in the community,” he said.
“Safety is paramount for our community and we know there are some hot zones inside our community, and it’s a bit of trial period that we want to give this a bit of a shot at.”
Nelson also recommended that the initiative be reviewed in six months.
The motions were supported unanimously.
“I fully support this. I have a nursing degree and know there are lots of people that use needles and sharps containers,” Councillor Sheila Boehm said.
“Myself having had to give my husband a shot before a trip and then trying to find a sharps containers because I won’t find throw them in the garbage, and I also know being on the school board that we used to find them sometimes in the school grounds.”
Councillor Marnie Brenner said she was also in full support and noted that Ottawa has a similar program that monitors the community needs and the effectiveness of the program.
“I’m just wondering if there’s a way for us to do that just so that we have some kind of feedback in a few months where the hotspots are and if the bins should be in a different location.”
Knapp responded that she is already working on a tracking sheet to monitor which bins have been used, and is also talking to the schools and other organizations to see if they are finding any after the bins have been put up.
“I do understand that every community is different and some ideas don’t work,” Knapp said.
“I also want to make it very clear that I know that I asked for 25 sharps containers, however, that is a very tentative number…This is just a means to a problem that could potentially be quite hazardous to our youth; we’re just trying to attempt something as a response to the needles that are being found.”
Councillor Jason Ryll said while the program does not come without some controversy attached to it, he said the costs of harm prevention, in his opinion, far out way the costs of treatment for any diseases or infection that any members of the public or their city works crew might incur.
“We’re much better and we’re much further ahead in safely disposing of them in the first place,” he said.
“Also there is a little bit of an inherent liability and risk to the City at a residence if someone is injured by a discarded needle, and we did nothing for fear of the message that it might send.”
Councillor Craig Smith while he had some doubts Knapp had addressed them before he even was even able to bring them up. He said he liked the fact that the bins are discreet and recommended for Knapp to work with staff and come up with the right places for the bins.
The boxes will be maintained and emptied by CMHA’s Supported Opportunities Program with Interior Health supplying two 5 gallon biohazard sharps containers for the purpose of emptying the units.
Director of Municipal Services Gary Muraca said staff sees about 30 to 40 needles a year within City parks.
“Our hotspots are currently Pinchbeck Hill, Boitano Park up by the skateboard park, as well as the Stampede Grounds in back behind the cowboy we’ll find them there and usually this time of year when we start getting our spring clean-up,” he said.
“Currently we have one of the yellow boxes at our yard that we empty.”
Knapp told MyCaribooNow after the meeting that she is excited to get the program started.
“I think that there’s always room to grow, however, I think that it’s very fair and I think that it gives us the opportunity for us to establish the need,” she said.
“We do have many placement ideas in mind but we’re going to be working very collaboratively with city hall to decide on the best placements available.”
“I really hope that Williams Lake can get behind this idea and understand the need to protect everyone here. “
(Editor’s Note: Listen to the author of this report with CMHA’s Alyisha Knapp in the audio file below)