Penticton firefighters Tyler Guy (left) and Joel Black, wearing protective gear, safely dispose of needles at the Main Street location of Prospera Credit Union in September. The “sharps” were found inside a suitcase outside of the building earlier in the day.                                Mark Brett/Western News

Penticton firefighters Tyler Guy (left) and Joel Black, wearing protective gear, safely dispose of needles at the Main Street location of Prospera Credit Union in September. The “sharps” were found inside a suitcase outside of the building earlier in the day. Mark Brett/Western News

Penticton group, IH eyeing overdose prevention site

Discussions still in ‘very early’ stages, as interested groups study feasibility in the city

Does Penticton need an overdose prevention site?

That’s the question an ad hoc committee of interested groups is looking at answering, as an overdose crisis continues to throttle B.C., according to South Okanagan Women In Need Society executive director Debbie Scarborough.

The B.C. government website says supervised injection sites, also called supervised consumption sites, are available in Kelowna and Kamloops alone in the Interior Health region, with no mention of overdose prevention sites (OPS) in the region.

Related: Nine suspected fatal overdoses over five days in IH region

Just a subtle change differentiates between an overdose prevention site and a supervised consumption site. An OPS only monitors those who have used drugs in case of an overdose, and may provide some services, such as clean needles and naloxone afterwards, whereas a supervised consumption site oversees the consumption of substances.

Though appearing minor in their differences, an OPS does not need to hop the same major red-tape hurdles with the federal government as a supervised consumption site, while still providing low-barrier access to harm reduction supplies and services.

“We are looking at that, yes,” Scarborough said. “Definitely within the last year we’ve been working very diligently on that.”

Details on the potential for an OPS remain scarce, with no decision made on whether the city will get one, but Interior Health mental health and substance use manager Kevin Fraser confirmed in a brief statement that the health authority is looking at the option.

Related: Penticton hospital fourth busiest in the region for opioid overdose

“Interior Health is working closely with community partners in Penticton to determine the feasibility of an overdose prevention site,” Fraser said. “We are in the very early stages of these discussions, and no decisions have been made at this time. We will share information publicly as these plans progress.”

What is closer to fruition, however, is a sharps disposal program that would set up bins for needles and other sharp objects at substance use hotspots in town.

Scarborough said injection drug users will typically walk about 300 metres to dispose of a needle properly, and the presence of bins would dramatically reduce the number of sharps found around the city — something Penticton Fire Chief Larry Watkinson said the fire department has had an increase in calls for.

Related: More needles found in downtown Penticton

“We’ve always done needle pickups, it’s just become more predominant in the last year, pretty well, year and a bit, since the fentanyl crisis,” Watkinson said.

“We come when we’re available or when we’re even out of quarters, we’ll stop by, but it’s important, but we’re not going to take ourselves out of service to do that.”

Last Wednesday, the fire department had three calls for needle pickups in one day, though Watkinson said the issue was likely because of snow melting and needles in the snow becoming more apparent all at once.

“We kind of anticipated that, actually, that once the snow banks kind of deteriorate and the snow plows have done their work and now we have debris piles and needles are in them,” he said.

The City of Penticton, Watkinson with the fire department, the South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society and 100 Homes Penticton are all taking part in the sharps committee, which Scarborough said has made some headway. SOWINS mobile outreach and SAFExst co-ordinator Gwen Wain recently consulted with drug users to find some spots around the city to put the bins.

Related: Interior Health issues illicit drug alert after spike of overdoses in B.C.

“The city provided a map to Gwen, and Gwen worked with those clients and they’ve identified the hotspots where there could be some sharps containers, and then there will be a schedule on who would empty them, and then have them safely disposed, probably through Interior Health,” Scarborough said.

One of the issues with some of the bathroom sharps containers has been overflowing, which Scarborough said would be resolved through participants in the program checking in on sharps bins and letting those in charge of pickup know where the bins are at.

Scarborough wouldn’t say how many hotspots have been identified or pointed out, reluctant to potentially concern neighbouring properties before the details and consultations are worked out, but said she doesn’t expect too much pushback.

“These are not the places that the people would normally frequent that aren’t using,” she said.

“I think it’s the reality, and if we want people to dispose of their needles, we need to provide a place. The proof is that the majority of people, if they’re there, will dispose of their needles the right way.”

Just Posted

Central Programs and Services on Richter Street.
COVID-19 exposure at Central Programs and Services

Interior Health annouces a COVID-19 exposure within Central Okanagan Schools

Tony Costa/ Facebook
Fire burning above Peachland

The blaze sparked on Sunday and is believed to be lightning caused

(Dave Ogilvie/Contributed)
Injured mountain biker rescued in West Kelowna

The mountain biker reportedly has a hip injury about 1 km up the Smith Creek Road trail

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Pierre family, an Indigenous family, once lived in what is now downtown Summerland. Today, Pierre Drive is named in honour of the family. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Pierre family played role in Summerland’s history

Downtown Summerland was once Penticton Indian Reserve #3

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Jaimee Peters photo of a Willow Midwives helping with a birth. Willow closed its doors March 31 because of a shortage of midwives. (Contributed)
South Okanagan’s only midwifery to re-open this summer

Willow Community Midwives was forced to close because of a shortage of midwives

Most Read