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Drug-needle task force’s strategy taking shape

Sweep teams, drop-off sharps containers discussed
Black Press file photo

The Safe Needle Disposal Task Force, a committee focused on developing a strategy to combat growing reports of drug paraphernalia discarded on Terrace streets, is moving forward in conversations about safe needle disposal.

With no existing protocol established by the city for dealing with drug paraphernalia, the task force was created to put a plan in place before the problem escalates. The committee has met twice so far on Aug. 1 and Aug. 15, and is comprised of Terrace RCMP, Northern Health, the City of Terrace, Terrace Downtown Improvement Association, and Ksan Society. 

The city met with Northern Health in June and decided to start recording drug paraphernalia clean-up calls. Since June 13, there have been 15 recorded incidents with 6-8 unrecorded incidents reported after-hours. According to the first meeting’s minutes, city staff were getting calls “almost daily” for these incidents.

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Locations where needles were found include Elks Park, the Courthouse trails, the Salvation Army alleyway and the downtown core including Brolly Square, Riverside Park, Terrace Little Theater, George Little House and Mills Memorial Hospital. The most concentrated areas, or “hot-spots”, were behind the Terrace Public Health Unit, George Little Park and the park’s hillside, and the downtown core.

RCMP reported the use of methamphetamine and fentanyl is on the rise, and could be linked to the increase of needles around town. They identified areas around Willow Creek daycare, the downtown core, and the Terrace Pentecostal Assembly Church as other hot spots in the city.

The city’s leisure services department allocated additional staff to conduct daily sweeps of all parks around the city. The task force discussed implementing a similar strategy to Quesnel’s Clean Team, an organized group of former and current drug users who are hired to clean up drug paraphernalia in the community.

“This Clean Team goes out on a frequent basis, and I think part of it too is, as peers, they engage with people who use drugs on the streets and they talk to them about safe needle disposal and harm reduction services, just do a lot of good work that way. It’s peer-to-peer engagement,” said Krysten Thomson, operations lead at Northern Health.

Thomson said she will also ask the health authority to draft a Safe Needle Disposal Guide for Terrace, modelled after the one used in Prince George.

READ MORE: City to increase park inspections after finding drug paraphernalia

Other first conversations centred on where drop boxes should be placed and whether they should be inside or outside of facilities like the back of the Terrace Public Library, the Health Unit, and public washrooms. But potential spots are still being decided.

There were also conversations around a potential safe injection site, which Thomson said is “best practice,” mentioning downtown Prince George has a marked off area.

“So people go, they use the safe injection site and no needles leave. They’re disposed of right there,” she said.

The next meeting is tomorrow (Aug. 30)at 1:15 p.m. at City Hall.

What to do if you find drug paraphernalia

If you find drug paraphernalia, such as a needle, on public or private property within the City of Terrace please contact the Leisure Services Department at 250-615-3000 and a staff member will be dispatched to safely dispose of the item.

If this occurs outside of regular business hours take the following steps if you are comfortable doing so:

• Do not try to put the cap back on the needle. Do not snap, remove, or bend needles either.

• Pick the needle up carefully with tongs or pliers. Ensure the needle tip is pointing down and away from you.

• Put the needle in a hard plastic container, tightly seal and label it.

• Take the plastic container to the Terrace Public Health Unit at 3412 Kalum Street or the Emergency Room at Mills Memorial Hospital.

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