Safe needle disposal is at the crux of a new project Williams Lake city council endorsed at its committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, April 16.
After hearing a presentation from Alyisha Knapp, from Canadian Mental Health Association about the need for discreet, metal containers in designated areas to discard needles and supplies, council voted to allocate $1,500 from the City’s special projects fund.
“We want you to work with staff to identify key locations and council will review the project in six months,” said Coun. Scott Nelson as he made a motion to endorse Knapp’s request for support and permission to install the boxes.
Knapp described the project as a harm reduction proposal and told council she already has the work force who will look after emptying the boxes.
“You probably see us picking up garbage in the mornings through our pre-vocational training program,” she said, noting through the litter pick up they have found needles in parks and alleyways behind the Salvation Army and the TD Bank.
Through the pre-vocational program, workers also distribute care packages that contain 10 syringes, 10 cookers, 10 vials of water, 10 alcohol swabs, two tourniquets, two condoms, two lubricant packets as well as four information cards.
“Currently six different locations throughout the community are supplied with these packages and roughly 100 to 250 bags are utilized every month, meaning that there are anywhere between 1,000 to 2,500 needles being distributed in that time,” Knapp said.
Many different people are using needles for diabetes or drugs, she added.
The metal containers can be mounted anywhere and have locks on them.
Knapp said she did not want bright yellow ones because that adds to stigma and plastic can easily break in the cold weather.
Coun. Sheila Boehm said she fully supported the idea because she did not want a child hurt by picking up a discarded needle.
“I would encourage you to talk to service providers so they can let people know where the boxes will be,” Boehm said.
Coun. Marnie Brenner asked if there will be a monitoring system to track where the containers are that get used the most, and also offered her full support for the project.
Coun. Jason Ryll said the cost of the project far outweighed the costs of possible infection.
“I would rather follow your lead,” Ryll said. “Even if users don’t throw the needles away in the boxes, then at least someone picking them up will have a place to discard them.”
Acting Mayor Craig Smith, who took to Facebook before the meeting to seek public input on the project, said he had his doubts at first, but felt Knapp had answered his questions.
“I like that you are going to work with City staff, that the boxes are discreet and that they are not plastic,” Smith said.
Gary Muraca, the city’s director of municipal services, said city workers normally find about 30 to 40 needles in a year on Pinchbeck Hill, Boitanio Park and behind the wooden sculpture above the Stampede Grounds.
“Our staff usually takes them to the hospital,” he said.