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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton Vees forward Ryan Upson (pictured) scored his fourth goal of the Okanagan Cup Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020 at the Shaw Centre against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in what would prove to be the Vees’ first loss of the tournament. (Contributed)
Penticton Vees split pair of weekend games with Salmon Arm

Salmon Arm handed the Vees their first loss of the Okanagan Cup Saturday night

Roly Russell, the predicted MLA for the Boundary Similkameen, and his wife Christine Carlson celebrate on election night. (Contributed)
B.C. Votes 2020: Russell leads as election heads to mail-in counting

Russell is likely to replace incumbent BC Liberal Linda Larson

Students across B.C. vote in a BC NDP majority government. (Student Vote B.C.)
Local students elect a BC NDP majority government

Penticton students elect NDP Toni Boot, with Green’s Ted Shumaker close behind

Incumbent B.C. Liberal Dan Ashton watching results come in on election night. (Contributed)
B.C. Votes 2020: Incumbent Dan Ashton heading towards third term in Penticton

Ashton was first elected to the legislature in 2013

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Voters are saying they felt safe voting in person despite the current pandemic. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Central Okanagan voters talk about their pandemic election experience

Despite an election taking place during COVID-19, residents said they felt safe voting in person

Efforts to replace the aging Rutland Middle School have been put off by another year by the ministry of education. (File photo)
Education ministry won’t replace Central Okanagan school anytime soon

New Westside Secondary top priority for ministry of education

Most Read