Wikimedia file photo

‘Call for needle pickup’ becoming routine

Although needles are found throughout the city of Kelowna, the downtown core has the most needle pickups

Buzz, buzz.

The scanner blares on a regular basis.

“Call for a needle pickup.”

It’s a regular routine for first-responders due to the opioid epidemic, as they are called out to remove used needles day in and day out.

According to a City of Kelowna report, from September to November, most needle pickups occurred downtown.

Needle pickups happened 45 times in the downtown, 12 in the Pandosy area, nine in Rutland and six in the Springfield/Gordon/Dilworth area.

However, the largest number of needles found during a pickup was in the Springfield/Gordon/Dilworth area with 320 needles, which was significantly higher than the number of needles found during other pickups.

Kelowna parks services manager Blair Stewert said city staff sometimes find stashes of needles which can contribute to larger numbers found at one time.

Related: Letter: Safe injections belong in IH building

Needle collection numbers spiked in March, with 1,602 found, but fewer needles have been found this year compared to 2016.

It’s tough to gather comparisons between years, said Stewert. “People move around and the people that are using them move around so it’s never guaranteed that the same people are in the same area all the time.”

The data collected also does not say whether needles are used, still in the package, or bundled together.

“We’re working on that now to see whether we can produce an app… to record the information more accurately,” said Stewert.

Deputy fire chief Larry Hollier said the concentration of needles found by firefighters is downtown, “but we do get needle calls in all four of our stations. So it’s across the city, but it’s not rampant by any means.”

More needles are also found during the summer, he said, and the number of needle calls varies from week to week.

Related: Hands-on Naloxone courses go Canada-wide

Companies downtown have taken needle cleanup into their own hands.

At Blenz Coffee on Bernard Avenue, franchise owner Sophie Brown said she considered having a needle disposal in the bathrooms and has implemented policies at the store to try and prevent overdoses and needles left in there.

“We try to enforce a customer-only policy with our bathrooms and we do have keys for them. Staff is required to knock if anyone is in there for an excessive amount of time to prevent drug use in the bathroom, but we do find needles occasionally,” she said.

The policies were put in place because the store was experiencing an issue with dirty needles found in the bathrooms.

“A lot of business owners started putting gates on their doorways and cracking down on security and it kind of petered away,” she said.

Brown would love to see more of a crackdown on the drug use and homelessness issues in Kelowna by the city.

“It’s the proximity to Bernard Avenue. A lot of these people are filtering over and it’s definitely hurting businesses downtown,” she said.

Starbucks locations on Bernard and Harvey Avenues installed needle containers, “more than five years ago to provide a disposal method for needles and other sharp objects that is safe for customers and partners,” said associate communications manager Mary Franssen.

Containers can also be found in the bathrooms of the Okanagan Regional Library downtown.

The Downtown Kelowna Business Association has a sharps program, where needles are picked up in partnership with Interior Health and the City of Kelowna.

Executive director Ninette Ollgaard said it’s not just a downtown issue, it’s an Okanagan and B.C.-wide one.

The number of needles found in the past few year varies because of the preferred method of ingesting substances, she said.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Mount Eneas fire grows to 1,374 hectares

Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen issues evac alerts for properties in Area F.

Update: Placer Mountain fire continues to grow

There are five fires in high elevation burning near Keremeos

Okanagan Wildfires: The latest on wildfires and evacuations

A Friday morning look at the major wildfires impact the Okanagan and Similkameen.

Murder mystery staged on steam train

Summerland Singers and Players perform classic tale on the rails on July 21

Cooler temps today, but no rain in forecast until August

Environment Canada does not have good news when it comes to fighting fires in the Central Okanagan.

BC Wildfire update on Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

Summerland winery saved from wildfire

Okanagan Crush Pad is thanking firefighters for saving the Summerland vineyard

Public invited to owl release party Sunday

Three owls suspected of having ingested Warfarin to be released Sunday

What’s happening this weekend

Follow Social Squad memeber Matthew Abrey to find out what’s happeing this weekend

Fire on Kelowna’s Knox Mountain quickly knocked down

City fire crews responded to report of smoke at the top of the hill Friday afternoon.

RCMP help to save goats from wildfire

The fast-approaching wildfire, sparked Thursday, forced the evacuation of five homes

Update: Law Creek wildfire evacuation alert partially rescinded

A blaze in West Kelowna still has 129 properties on an evacuation alert

Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire evacuation alert lifted

An evacuation alert remains in effect for those on Lakeshore Road

Feds say they’re willing to help with Okanagan fires

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale talks to local MP and offers help

Most Read