A used needle return program set up in a downtown Penticton pharmacy was created out of compassion for those addicted to drugs and with the hope to keep the city protected.
Joelle Mbamy, owner of Sunrise Pharmacy (located at 749 Main St.), said they are offering five cents for every used needle brought into their pharmacy so they can safely transport them to Interior Health to be disposed of.
Just six days into the program, Mbamy estimates there have been over 1,000 used needles turned in.
“It has been very successful. The response has been phenomenal. Everyone is very respectful and all of the needles are coming in packaged and secured in the sharp containers so there is no risk of cross-contamination for us and for them,” said the pharmacy owner’s daughter and pharmacy assistant Donna Mbamy-Conci.
Sunrise is also offering people larger containers to ensure they are collected safely. On Tuesday one person returned over 100 needles and the same person had another 500 counted out from the area known as the Hobo Trails near Okanagan Lake. Wednesday morning another 100 were brought in.
“Not only can people using the needles take responsibility but they are also learning about the implications of someone getting poked with a needle and how they can stop a child playing in the grass or sand from getting infected with HIV or (hepatitis) C by bringing the used needles in to be properly disposed of instead of tossing them aside,” said Mbamy-Conci.
Through the Sunrise Smiles Foundation, a non-profit that the pharmacy established, they can pay for the needle returns at the pharmacy. They also host a pancake breakfast for those in need on Saturdays.
Besides the hand-written poster clinging to a sandwich board in front of the pharmacy, Sunrise hasn’t advertised the needle return program. Word has travelled fast though, evident in the call they received from a group in Kamloops that runs something similar and is now hoping to connect with Sunrise to share information.
“Various communities are now coming together to come up with formulate a solution that is effective and reducing that stigma. Overall we just want to make sure everyone is safe,” said Mbamy-Conci. “We might not be able to change the world, but we can change one person at a time. Everyday we try and impact one person’s life and I think we have been successful at that.”