Needle cleanup around Vernon is being suported by city officials. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Mobile needle exchange considered in Okanagan

City looks at options to combat issues of discarded needles

Vernon won’t be buying back needles, but could deliver clean needles in exchange for dirty ones, for free.

In an effort to combat the issue of discarded needles around town, politicians are looking at potential options. A buy-back program was investigated and shot down, but now a mobile needle exchange program is being looked into.

“It’s where we actually have a physical vehicle that is geared specifically to doing an exchange. It’s not isolated anymore, it can actually travel throughout the community,” said Coun. Kari Gares, who made the suggestion after seeing its effectiveness in other communities.

“This program is geared towards getting it before somebody discards it.”

While outreach teams in the area are already taking and cleaning up used needles and handing out clean ones, such efforts are limited, Gares said.

“We know there are other service providers doing it, but we also know that there is a needle issue. Some of the communities have actually experienced more needles coming back into the system than the number going out.”

One group on the ground is Folks on Spokes, visits hotspots five days a week in the morning, and by the end of August, the program had collected 348 needles.

READ MORE: Vernon hotspots cleaned of needles and garbage

But this is just a portion of the discarded needles out there, according to Coun. Scott Anderson.

“We do have a private security firm who in the same time period has collected 3,000-4,000,” Anderson said, not including the numbers collected by other groups, businesses, officials and individuals.

Coun. Dalvir Nahal isn’t sure she believes those numbers, but applauds the city’s efforts to curb the issue and wants to see more awareness is needed around local resources.

“I do feel our Folks on Spokes program is not at its full potential. Almost once a week we get complaints (from the public and businesses) and they have no idea about this program,” Nahal said.

Despite the program efforts, Coun. Scott Anderson agrees the city needs something more.

“I know it’s something, what it is is not adequate,” said Anderson, who believes the Interior Health Authority should be taking ownership, not the City of Vernon.

“This is an issue that is caused by IHA and it should be cleaned up by IHA, but they aren’t interested in it.”

The City of Vernon is considering the Folks on Spokes in the 2020 budget at $27,540. So far this year, the program has cost $11,245. It was a one-time funded investment in 2019.

“The current program structure is the best use of resources,” Vernon Community Safety Office co-ordinator Rachael Zubick said in a report to council. “It is financially prudent as well as an effective use of time.”

No matter what is done, Coun. Akbal Mund isn’t convinced the city will ever be free of this issue.

“It’s not going to stop needles from going on the ground, I think it (needle exchange) is a total waste of money.”

READ MORE: Needle buyback program fails to gain support in Vernon


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bulawka and teammates make history for Kelowna Skating Club at nationals

The club returns from a strong showing at the National Skate Championships

Rental costs keep climbing in Kelowna

Between 2018-2019, cost to rent two-bedroom unit in city increased by 9.4 per cent to $1,385

Kelowna’s Fireside Festival nearly sold-out

This year’s festival features the Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Andrew Judah, Little Destroyer and more

Declaration to opt out of speculation tax nears for Central Okanagan residents

Declaration packages will arrive between Jan. 24 and Feb. 21 and must be completed by March 31

UBCO looking for great writers as part of annual Okanagan Short Story Contest

Deadline for submissions quickly approaching on Jan. 31

North Okanagan employers to pay $25/hr for skilled foreign workers

Up to 300 applicants may apply under immigration pilot

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

Protesters block entrance to Victoria government building to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

A letter with four demands was delivered to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

NHL prospects returning to Penticton for Young Stars Classic

After a one-year absence the Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Classic is returning… Continue reading

Hospital patient pleads guilty to dumbbell assault of nurse in Abbotsford

Neale Heath admits to assault causing bodily harm in attack last September

‘Epic sky palace’: B.C. businesses help create dream treehouse for boy recovering from cancer

‘It was kind of a bright shining beacon at the end of a horrible, dark tunnel’

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

Break in a “poke in the eye” to Shuswap ski club

Larch Hills Nordics looking at security improvements for chalet

Most Read