The city’s safe needle disposal task force has confirmed $12,000 in funding so far to operate a Clean Team for one year and install drop boxes in different locations around Terrace.
The safe needle task force was created in June to establish a concrete plan to deal with rising reports of drug paraphernalia in the city. The committee is comprised of Terrace RCMP, Northern Health, the City of Terrace, Terrace Downtown Improvement Area, and Ksan Society.
Krysten Thomson, member of the task force and operations lead at Northern Health, gave an update to council on the group’s activities on Dec. 10.
“The task force focused on three main pieces of work to address the issue, the first one being the Safe Needle Disposal guide, the second being the safe needle disposal units and the third being the Terrace Clean Team project,” Thomson says.
On Nov. 22, funding for sharps containers was confirmed with $5,000 from Northern Health’s Imagine grant. The task force also received $2,000 from the Peer Engagement and Evaluation Project grant through the BC Centre for Disease Control, and $5,000 Harm Reduction grant from Kermode Friendship Society, a new stakeholder in the Clean Team project.
“[The project] is probably the most exciting to discuss,” Thomson says.
The initiative is modelled after Quesnel’s pilot project to address litter and paraphernalia found in the city.
Operating outside of the task force, the team would employ former and current drug users to sweep problematic areas of the city on a weekly basis and dispose of needles safely. Before, sweeps were handled by the city’s Leisure Services department.
Another piece of their work will be to engage in conversation with people vulnerable to substance use, to provide information on available supports, resources, and explain harm reduction strategies. Members of the Clean Team will receive training and education from Northern Health’s Intensive Case Management Team (ICMT).
“There is definitely a lot of literature to support that peer-to-peer conversations and support is more effective than health care providers or others trying to engage this hard to reach population,” Thomson says.
To finance THE Clean Team past one year, the task force is also applying for a provincial Crime Reduction grant of up to $75,000. The cost to hire two people to conduct sweeps a few hours a week is about $5,000 a year, Thomson says.
“Unfortunately that’s the one hesitation that I have with this project is the sustainability of it, to start this great work and then potentially take it away from these peers if we can’t continue to fund it,” Thomson explained when asked if the $12,000 budget was enough.
“But the plan at this point is to continue applying for grant applications…To increase the scope and get another peer, or increase the hours, we would have to up the budget.”
READ MORE: Drug-needle task force taking shape
The group has also finalized their Safe Needle Disposal Guide, a document modelled after the one used in Prince George to provide more information on safe needle disposal practices.
The seven-page document outlines who to contact if needles are found, and how to discard them safely. It can be found online through the City of Terrace website and Northern Health’s website, with physical copies available at Terrace’s Health Unit.
Still missing in the guide is a map outlining where to find safe needle drop box locations in Terrace, though Thomson says the guide will be updated once the exact number and locations are determined.
So far, the Terrace Public Library and the George Little House have installed sharps containers.
“Ease of access to these drop boxes should reduce the instances of discarded needles and drug paraphernalia according to literature that we looked at,” Thomson says.
The first meeting between key stakeholders for the Clean Team initiative is scheduled for January 4, with last meetings for the task force to be set in the new year.