Safe Needle Disposal Grant

Safe needle awareness in the South Okanagan has received a shot in the arm from the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Interior Health Prevention Services has received a one-time grant of $25,000 to help establish a Needle Partnership Program for Penticton and Oliver.

Penticton Public Health Nurse, Colleen Maloney, says the point of the program is to educate the public about safe needle distribution and to reduce to spread of blood-borne infections.

"At this point, the funding is available to get people in the community together to look at the whole issue of needle distribution. That includes individuals being able to access clean needles for use as well as community members being taught how to safely dispose of used needles," says Maloney.

She says there is a needle exchange in Penticton, but residents in Oliver have no such program.

"It has been an issue in Oliver, and part of this project will address that.
The project will also look at if needles are being disposed of and how can we make it possible for those needles to be disposed more safely," says Maloney.

She says needle use is a community problem that needs to be addressed.

"People with diabetes, do need needles for personal use. People who use needles for other reasons do need an easy source of safe needles in order to help prevent the spread of diseases such as Hepatitis and HIV," says Maloney.

She says the needle exchange program operating out of the Penticton Health Centre is the only such program in all of the South Okanagan.

"We really need to look at other solutions so there are more opportunities for individuals requiring needles to access and safely dispose of them,"
says Maloney.

Director of Pathways Addictions Counseling Centre, Jeanni Jones, says the program is long overdue.

"It fits in with the Harm Reduction Approach we use, which tries to minimize that harm done by dangerous activities. If we hand out clean needles, then addicts are less likely to use shared needles, which is what puts them at high risk for disease," says Jones.

Maloney says the program will start with a workshop for Interior Health staff and drug and alcohol addiction staff.

"Once we've had that workshop then we will be going out to community organizations to get their input. After that workshop, we are hoping to plan some sort of public input opportunity," says Maloney.

The needle exchange program traded more than 24,000 needles in 2006 and has swapped over 200,000 needles since its inception in October of 1999.

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