Wikimedia file photo

‘Call for needle pickup’ becoming routine

Although needles are found throughout the city of Kelowna, the downtown core has the most needle pickups

Buzz, buzz.

The scanner blares on a regular basis.

“Call for a needle pickup.”

It’s a regular routine for first-responders due to the opioid epidemic, as they are called out to remove used needles day in and day out.

According to a City of Kelowna report, from September to November, most needle pickups occurred downtown.

Needle pickups happened 45 times in the downtown, 12 in the Pandosy area, nine in Rutland and six in the Springfield/Gordon/Dilworth area.

However, the largest number of needles found during a pickup was in the Springfield/Gordon/Dilworth area with 320 needles, which was significantly higher than the number of needles found during other pickups.

Kelowna parks services manager Blair Stewert said city staff sometimes find stashes of needles which can contribute to larger numbers found at one time.

Related: Letter: Safe injections belong in IH building

Needle collection numbers spiked in March, with 1,602 found, but fewer needles have been found this year compared to 2016.

It’s tough to gather comparisons between years, said Stewert. “People move around and the people that are using them move around so it’s never guaranteed that the same people are in the same area all the time.”

The data collected also does not say whether needles are used, still in the package, or bundled together.

“We’re working on that now to see whether we can produce an app… to record the information more accurately,” said Stewert.

Deputy fire chief Larry Hollier said the concentration of needles found by firefighters is downtown, “but we do get needle calls in all four of our stations. So it’s across the city, but it’s not rampant by any means.”

More needles are also found during the summer, he said, and the number of needle calls varies from week to week.

Related: Hands-on Naloxone courses go Canada-wide

Companies downtown have taken needle cleanup into their own hands.

At Blenz Coffee on Bernard Avenue, franchise owner Sophie Brown said she considered having a needle disposal in the bathrooms and has implemented policies at the store to try and prevent overdoses and needles left in there.

“We try to enforce a customer-only policy with our bathrooms and we do have keys for them. Staff is required to knock if anyone is in there for an excessive amount of time to prevent drug use in the bathroom, but we do find needles occasionally,” she said.

The policies were put in place because the store was experiencing an issue with dirty needles found in the bathrooms.

“A lot of business owners started putting gates on their doorways and cracking down on security and it kind of petered away,” she said.

Brown would love to see more of a crackdown on the drug use and homelessness issues in Kelowna by the city.

“It’s the proximity to Bernard Avenue. A lot of these people are filtering over and it’s definitely hurting businesses downtown,” she said.

Starbucks locations on Bernard and Harvey Avenues installed needle containers, “more than five years ago to provide a disposal method for needles and other sharp objects that is safe for customers and partners,” said associate communications manager Mary Franssen.

Containers can also be found in the bathrooms of the Okanagan Regional Library downtown.

The Downtown Kelowna Business Association has a sharps program, where needles are picked up in partnership with Interior Health and the City of Kelowna.

Executive director Ninette Ollgaard said it’s not just a downtown issue, it’s an Okanagan and B.C.-wide one.

The number of needles found in the past few year varies because of the preferred method of ingesting substances, she said.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Vernon’s alleged “Deadpool” robber revealed

RCMP catch up with suspect following gas station robbery earlier this month

Sicamous RCMP arrest Lake Country man following truck break-in

Suspect found in possesion of bear spray, masks and break-in tools.

Motorcyclist involved in Westside Road crash

Air ambulance assists while motorists face lengthy delays

Vernon climate advocacy group protests against Tolko

Group to demonstrate outside company head office Monday over plan to log close to water supply

Grindrod Garlic Festival delights fans

Hundreds pack Grindrod Park for annual event with heavenly aroma

VIDEO: Canadian zoos’ captive breeding programs help preserve endangered species

Programs considered last-ditch effort to prevent local extinctions of turtles, butterflies and more

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

RCMP searching for missing Kelowna hitchhiker

Cody Kolodychuk was last heard from on July 31 and was thought to be hitchhiking in the Vernon area

South Okanagan pays it forward to BC Wildfire Service firefighters

Community members thank Eagle Bluff firefighters through Tim Hortons donations

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

Art and music at Summerland Ornamental Gardens

Second event of the summer will be held Sunday, Aug. 25

Most Read