City of Penticton considers new bylaw to restrict needle distribution

Approximately 440 people in Penticton use intravenous drugs and 167,000 needles were ordered in 2018

The City of Penticton is watching the City of Parksville on Vancouver Island very closely, as it attempts to implement a needle distribution bylaw in its city. Penticton is considering a similar bylaw, but city officials said this is just one option city council can consider, and it may not be the best one. (File Photo)

The answer is still unclear about how to address Penticton’s needle problem, however the city is considering a new bylaw to limit the number of discarded needles found in the city’s parks and alleyways, according to city officials.

According to city planning manager Blake Laven, the city has been meeting weekly with representatives from Interior Health to find a solution, but so far nothing has been finalized.

He said creating a new bylaw that would restrict where needles can be given out isn’t the city’s first choice, but it is closely following the City of Parksville on Vancouver Island, that is currently considering a similar bylaw.

“Ultimately, we don’t want to go down that road because we understand this bylaw could limit people’s access to harm reduction supplies. And it could lead to increases of HIV and Hepatitus in our community,” said Laven.

“We’re all well aware of that, but I think council wants to see something get done. So if we can’t come to another arrangement with Interior Health than that’s one option we will be bringing to council.”

READ MORE: Interior Health defends needle distribution in Penticton, calls for collaborative solutions

According to stats provided by city staff on Nov. 5 at the regular council meeting, approximately 440 people in Penticton use intravenous drugs and 167,000 needles were ordered for Penticton in 2018 through the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

The report report did not state how many of those needles were distributed, however it did state that 90 per cent of them were properly disposed of.

Laven said if a new bylaw is approved it would not be allowed to restrict the number of needles being distributed in the community, but would put more onus on the organizations providing them to ensure it is done with community safety in mind.

For example, he said the bylaw could mandate that each organizations’ needles be tagged so that if they are improperly disposed, authorities can determine where they came from and better address clean-up efforts.

“There’s a lot of different ways you could go with a regulation bylaw. Like Parksville said that you can’t distribute needles on city land without approval of the location,” said Laven. “So right now we have an issue where people and agencies go right to Esplanade Park and the parking lot at that city park and distribute there, and that’s where we see a lot of issues happen and a lot of the clean-ups we’re having to do.”

In order for the city to successfully introduce a new bylaw, it would need to be forwarded to Interior Health for comments from the Medical Health Officer after it passes first reading. While the health authority cannot outright turn down the bylaw, under the Public Health Bylaws Regulation it would require approval from the Ministry of Mental Health & Addictions.

“BC needle distribution policies follow clinical best practices and World Health Organization recommendations, and these policies do not restrict or limit the distribution of needles,” states the ministry in a release

“Overall, the risk to the public is extremely low. There has never been a report of anyone who has acquired HIV, or any other pathogen, from a needle-stick injury from a discarded needle in a park or any other public place in B.C.”

The ministry also recently set aside $1 million in funding for municipalities to apply for up to $50,000 in grant money for collaborative initiatives that improve community wellness and harm reduction. Needle collection and recovery is one type of initiative that municipalities may be eligible for under this grant program.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
JordynThomson 
Send Jordyn Thomson an email.
Like the Western News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Vernon organization aiming to help teens at Christmas

Teens Count Too will be making gift presentations this week but is still accepting cash donations

For 52 people, it really is home for the holidays in Vernon

New My Place residential facility has occupants celebrating holidays in stable environment

Vernon community radio station inching closer to going on-air

Application to be put on public hearing agenda, likely in the spring.

Penticton Vees earn split with Vernon Vipers

Vees victorious 4-1 at home in back end of home-and-home series

North Okanagan Knights blanked in East Kootenays

Knights drop pair of KIJHL games in Fernie and Kimberley; lost five straight

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

RCMP officer volunteers as designated driver

Princeton’s two largest employers ensure safe rides for Christmas parties

Pacioretty scores 2, Golden Knights top Canucks 6-3

Vegas goalie Fleury gets win No. 452

In Photos: CP Rail Holiday Train lights up the Shuswap

The stop on the train’s Canada-wide journey came with a $5,500 donation to local food bank.

B.C. VIEWS: Hunger does not end with the season

Despite innovations in food distribution, the need is still there in B.C. communities

Kelowna RCMP officer suspended after allegedly sexting assault victim

RCMP confirm investigation but hold back details

Old Christmas card has ties to Summerland agriculture

Card was sent by former director of Summerland Research Station

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Most Read