City of Penticton to study discarded needles in wake of public outcry
The City of Penticton has directed staff to launch a comprehensive study into the distribution and collection of needles following a public outcry over improperly discarded sharps.
On Tuesday, mayor and council unanimously voted to support a motion tabled by councillor Katie Robinson directing staff to review and report back with options to regulate needle distribution and collection within the city.
WATCH: (June 2019) Growing calls to combat discarded needles in Penticton after child allegedly poked in park
“It’s meant to provide a path forward to research all options, not just one or two but all options for the distribution and collection of sharps in our community,” said Robinson at the council table.
In June, a young girl was allegedly poked by a discarded needle in Skaha Lake Park. A cell phone video recorded by the child’s caretaker made the rounds on social media.
A month prior, the superintendent of the Okanagan Skaha School District spoke out about the increase in discarded needles on school property, calling it an almost daily occurrence.
A group of Penticton residents took matters into their own hands and launched a community clean up event—scouring beaches and parks for discarded sharps.
City council recently heard that 167,000 needles were distributed in Penticton last year.
WATCH: Escalating problem with needles left on Penticton school grounds (May 2019)
Interior Health said that there are approximately 440 people in the Penticton area who inject drugs and one to 10 per cent of needles handed out are improperly discarded.
Robinson said the study is necessary to address public safety.
“So it’s not just the segment of our population that the province and Interior Health is focused on because that is their job, our job as a council is to provide it for the entire community,” she said.
Councillor Judy Sentes encouraged staff to study supervised injections sites.
“IHA is not going to do it on their own unless there is community incentive or encouragement,” she said.
While some have called for the needle distribution program to be scrapped altogether, medical health officer Dr. Karin Goodison said the program is vital to public health.
“What we will see is an increase in the rate of HIV and Hepatitis C in this community as we did in the early 1990’s when we last had an overdose epidemic,” she told council earlier this month.
Regional harm reduction coordinator Lesley Coates pointed out that the risk of contracting diseases from a discarded needle is extremely low.
“We’re not concerned about it from a health perspective because one of the first things I want to point out is the risk of getting sick, getting an illness from an improperly discarded needle in the community, is extremely low,” Coates said.
Anthony Haddad, director of development services, said the study is expected to take 3-4 months to complete.
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