The District of Houston is planning to discuss the influx of used needles in the community with Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health an Addictions, during the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention.
Despite its size and remoteness, Houston is being disproportionately impacted by B.C.’s opioid crisis, according to a district staff report. Disposed needles have proliferated in the community and are being found in public areas such as parks, schoolyards, boulevards and alleyways.
“Its effects are more apparent and our community lacks many of the resources that larger communities can access to address the complex array of issues at the centre of this crisis,” states the report.
Last month, approximately 30 concerned local residents attended a council meeting to ask what council is doing to address drug-related issues in Houston, and to request that municipal crews do more frequent sweeps of public areas to clean up needles.
A district staff report says this proliferation appears correlated with needle exchange programs, which distribute sterile syringes and collect used ones. The report suggests that restricting access to needles and sharps through these programs would aid in reducing the quantity of disposed needles in Houston.
According to the provincial government, needle exchange programs have been scientifically demonstrated to reduce the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and bacterial infections which are difficult and costly to treat.
The district will ask the province to consider restricting supply of needles by requiring used needles to be exchanged for new ones, and to review the regulations governing needle exchange programs to further promote the safe and proper disposal of used sharps.
In addition, the district will ask for additional resources to increase capacity for mental health and addictions support and treatment in Houston. This should include increased staffing at the Houston Health Centre and at least one full-time social worker in the community.
Houston’s current resources for mental health and addictions are “overburdened,” adds the staff report, with only two staff at the Houston Health Centre allocated to support mental health and addictions.
The provincial government noted that B.C. is in the midst of an overdose crisis and that the impact can be seen in both large cities and small towns. A total of 391 people in B.C. died from illicit drug overdoses in the first three months of 2018, with 161 people dying of an overdose in March alone.
The annual UBCM convention will be held in Whistler from Sept. 10-14, 2018.
– With files from Ashley Wadhwani