The City of Langley is taking a step towards getting used needles off the ground.
City council has given the go-ahead to look into a pilot program that would involve setting up outdoor disposal bins for addicts to properly discard their needles, rather than dropping them in public spaces.
Councillor Nathan Pachal, who heads the Crime Prevention Task Group in charge of investigating the program along with Fraser Health, said bins would make a huge difference in areas where there is known drug abuse, such as Portage Park.
“We’ve been struggling with folks discarding needles and not having the proper resources in place to collect them,” Pachal said.
“That of course leads to challenges when you end up with children or anyone, really, running into them. It just creates an unsafe situation for people in our community.”
Fraser Health, which already distributes clean needles to users throughout the Lower Mainland as part of their harm reduction program, would provide the resources for the project.
Pachal said the city will also provide a forum for public consultation and feedback prior to implementing the project.
A similar pilot project in Montreal found drug users would travel as far as 200 metres to dispose a needle in an appropriate bin, rather than simply toss it on the ground.
The study written on the five-year program in 2009 by researchers from McGill University and the University of Washington also saw the number of needles on the ground in so-called “hot spots” where bins were installed decreased by up to 98 per cent.
The Montreal program saw 12 disposal bins installed throughout the city, with each bin able to hold up to 450 needles. The Langley program’s bins would likely be smaller.
Pachal said the key to the program is the location of the disposal bins in outdoor areas. So far, such bins are only found in public washrooms and other indoor locations in Langley and many other B.C. communities, including Vancouver.
While he admits it may not be a perfect solution, Pachal said the city should be willing to try anything it can to solve what’s become a public health and safety issue.
“If that means one less child, one less senior, or if one less resident in general doesn’t have to see a discarded needle, or risk stepping on it or getting poked, I think that’s a huge win for our community.”