Council okays needle exchange

Needle disposal sites are coming to several Invermere public washrooms.

Needle disposal sites are coming to several Invermere public washrooms.

Interior Health and the District of Invermere will work together to install secure disposal sites for syringes in various spots around the community, which could include Kinsmen Beach and the Mount Nelson Athletic Park.

Public health nurses Crissy Stavrakov and Jeff Quinn were at district council September 12, and told councillors they’ve found used needles lying on the ground in public playgrounds and on hiking trails.

“We’ve also talked with pharmacists and they’ve been selling needles and not getting them back in the proper manner, or not getting them back at all,” Quinn added.

While there is a disposal site at the Invermere Health Unit, Quinn said studies show public health facilities are typically used by fewer than 20 per cent of intravenous drug users.

“If there is a safe place to dispose of these needles hopefully you will have less of a chance of spreading communicable diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C to people who would otherwise not be exposed,” he added.

The boxes will be maintained and paid for by Interior Health, with the district covering installation costs. In addition to needle disposal, the units can also take glass stems used for smoking crack.

Stavrakov says similar boxes are already in place in Golden, which has a “busy, busy” needle exchange program.

“I think we’d be naive to assume there isn’t a population needing these services,” she added.

The boxes will likely be placed in washrooms, rather than outdoors, because needle use is more common in areas that afford some privacy, the nurses said. However, the district and Interior Health will also look at having some boxes be accessible at all hours.

“I think it’s long overdue, frankly,” councillor Bob Campsall said of the plan. “We know there is a problem with needle use and drug use in the valley, and it’s probably more urgent than people recognize… it’s better we get it in the open.”