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Needle Recovery in the Cowichan Valley

July 6, 2017

DUNCAN – Island Health and community partners in the Cowichan Valley have increased safety efforts in response to concerns about the number of needles being improperly discarded throughout the community.

“Increases in overdose and overdose fatalities in the Cowichan area are a challenge caused by new illicit drugs including the use of fentanyl, and this has also led to an increase in discarded needles” says Medical Health Officer, Dr. Paul Hasselback. “We acknowledge the concerns of Cowichan Valley residents about discarded needles and are working with Cowichan Valley partners in increasing needle recovery efforts to keep our public spaces clean and safe, particularly where children and families visit.”

The needle recovery program is one step in responding to the overdose crisis in the Cowichan Valley. Community concerns about discarded needles need to be addressed as overdose prevention services are established. Between January 1, 2016 and May 31, 2017, 254 people died from suspected opioid drug overdoses in the Island Health region. At least 23 of these people were from the Cowichan Valley. These tragic events highlight the need for a broad response to the current health crisis through education, prevention, outreach, harm reduction, naloxone kits, counselling, substance use treatment and supports, and access to mental health and substance use services. A proposed Overdose Prevention Services unit in the Cowichan Valley continues to be explored – including alternative service models and locations. Island Health remains committed to establishing Overdose Prevention Services as these have proven to save lives.

Needles and other harm reduction supplies, such as syringes and glass pipes, are distributed as part of a province-wide program that has been in place for over 15 years. The program provides needles to people who use drugs to reduce the transmission of blood-borne diseases through needle-sharing. It’s also an important opportunity to talk to clients and support their awareness of health services, including treatment options.

New needle sweep service:
• The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), in partnership with Island Health, will collect sharps seven days per week for an initial period of six months.
• The hours of the new service and areas where the sweeps will occur will be determined in partnership with the CMHA and community stakeholders.
The new needle sweep service is in addition to sweeps regularly carried out in the vicinity of the Warmland House and by NARSF (formerly the Nanaimo and Area Resource Services for Families) as part of their weekly outreach service to Cowichan and Cowichan Lake.

Needle collection:
• Island Health has provided North Cowichan and Duncan with eight needle drop boxes that have been installed where drug use is most prevalent.
• Needles can be returned to numerous locations in the Cowichan area, including Margaret Moss, Warmland House, Duncan Mental Health and the Cowichan Valley Food Bank.
View our map of needle collection locations in the Cowichan Valley: http://bit.ly/NeedleDisposalCV

Report a discarded needle:
You can report discarded needles by calling 250-732-3330 or emailing dave.street@cmha.bc.ca. Please provide a detailed description of the location (or GPS coordinates) and the number of needles found. Needle collection will be prioritized based on volumes and location.

Visit any Island Health location or our website at www.viha.ca for information on how to dispose of needles safely and what to do if you are pricked by a discarded needle.

South Island media inquiries:
Meribeth Burton
250-519-1815
meribeth.burton@viha.ca