Parksville council and health officials discuss discarded syringes

Screenshot from Parksville's council's Feb. 11, 2022 special meeting.
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Parksville council finally had a chance to discuss the issue of improperly discarded needles with public health officials.

Council had requested the meeting for over two years, according to Mayor Ed Mayne. The mayor said he wanted officials to explain why a proposed bylaw, that would have regulated how needles are distributed, was rejected by the Ministry of Health in 2020.

Mayne said the bylaw was not aimed at all injection drug users. “There is only a very small segment of the drug users that are the ones that carelessly discard, where they take their injection and drop the needle where they are.”

Coun. Adam Fras brought up the idea of distributing retractable syringes, which become dull after an injection and cannot prick someone who stumbles across one. Fras suggested the needles could be given to people who are not housed and may be more likely to discard a syringe in a public area.

“The stigma is really reduced when people aren’t fearful for their own health of improperly discarded needles in the community. I see this needle as a real solution,” he said.

In the past, the local community action team asked users about retractable needles and was told they would not be used, according to Kathy MacNeil, Island Health president and CEO. MacNeil suggested the teams could ask again.

The established best practice is to provide services amenable to the people receiving them, according to Kenneth Tupper, director of Substance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction at the Ministry of Health.

Tupper pointed to the results of an annual client survey done by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC).

“A question around retractable syringes has been brought up through that client survey a number of times. I think fairly — I won’t say unanimous, but a preponderance of clients say they would not want to use those. That’s been the basis for this decision,” Tupper said.

MacNeil suggested a future meeting to re-examine the proposed bylaw and determine which aspects are acceptable and which are unacceptable.

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