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

Alleged Penticton shooter John Brittain waives preliminary trial

Brittain will return to court in January to schedule a trial date

Cougar destroyed in Penticton area after mauling dog, killing cat

This is the first reported incident with a cougar this year in the Penticton area

James and Jamesy return to Penticton for more Christmas tea

Their Dec. 17 show explores friendship, the joy of giving, and a celebration of the imagination

Santa Parade lights up the streets of Penticton

People lined Main Street through the rain and chill in the air.

Tenore trio want to celebrate a Christmas with You

The tenor group performs at Penticton’s Church of the Nazarene tonight at 6 p.m.

Video: Magicians and Bubble Wonders highlight Penticton Shriners Variety Show

The annual fundraiser filled the Cleland Community Theatre on Sunday.

Province sues over sailing incident that killed teen with disabilities

Gabriel Pollard, 16, died from injuries after marine lift failed

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Assessed value of Lower Mainland homes expected to decrease in 2020

Other areas of province may see modest increases over last year’s values

Two Okanagan residents convicted and fined for hunting out of season

Both residents were convicted in a Kelowna provincial court

Book examines history of B.C. wine industry

Author Luke Whittall has studied the growth of the industry from the mid-19th century to today

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Holiday lights displayed in Summerland neighbourhood

Trout Creek neighbourhood to hold fourth annual lights contest

Most Read