PUBLIC SAFETY Sharps disposal units, like this one, will soon be up in strategic locations around Invermere. Photo submitted

By Joshua Estabrooks

Pioneer Staff

Its an issue that not many people are aware of, and if they are they dont like to talk about it but there is a need for sharps needle disposal containers in Invermere, according to Interior Healths public health department.

This need stems from a number of incidents where used needles have been found in public spaces, and an overall harm reduction program that aims to protect the general public from encountering used drug paraphernalia in these spaces.

Public Health Nurses, Jeff Quinn and Crissy Stavrakov, were recently given the go ahead from District of Invermere Council to install three sharps containers in the public washrooms at Kinsmen Beach, Mt. Nelson Athletic Park and behind the Eddie Mountain arena.

The receptacles could also be used for insulin syringes and even broken glass, anything sharp or hazardous that could hurt any member of the public, including the waste disposal personnel, said Mr. Quinn.

Both Mr. Quinn and Mrs. Stavrakov said that they have noticed an increase in use of their needle exchange program, currently located at the Invermere Health Centre, and have learned from the RCMP that crack/cocaine use is also on the rise. This indicates that there is already use in the community, and as the numbers in Golden and Cranbrook are also on the rise, the same is likely occurring in Invermere, said Mr. Quinn.

The harm reduction program also deals with crack/cocaine use as it has a pipe exchange component, where users can bring in their used pipe and receive a new one, which helps prevent the spread of disease from cracked or damaged pipes.

What happens with glass is when it is heated it becomes brittle, Mr. Quinn explained. The pipes do end up cracking or breaking and if they are reused and cracked it can cut the lips and spread diseases that way.

The data collected from the three initial sites will help both Mr. Quinn and Mrs. Stavrakov determine just how much need there is in the community, and could lead to the installation of more sharps containers in new locations if demand is there.

If anyone does find a used needle in a public space, they are asked to be very careful when disposing of it, said Mrs. Stavrakov.

They should be as safe as possible. Put it in a pop can and bring it to us at the health centre and we will dispose of it. If they dont want to touch it themselves they should definitely let someone know. Dont just leave it without telling anyone.

If anyone has any questions or concerns regarding the public harm reduction program, they can call 250-342-2360.