Monday, September 23, 2019

Needle drop boxes in Downtown Duncan: An example for Langley City

This weekend, I was in the Municipality of North Cowichan which is home to the Chemainus Theatre Festival. North Cowichan has an estimated population of 31,920 over some 195.5 square kilometres; this is a rural community. Directly attached to the south of North Cowichan is the City of Duncan.

Map of Municipality of North Cowichan with City of Duncan in Purple. Select map to enlarge.

Duncan has an estimated population of 5,241 and is 2.07 square kilometres. Duncan is the de facto downtown for North Cowichan.

The RCMP detachment is shared between North Cowichan and Duncan. North Cowichan has an aquatics centre which the City of Duncan encourages its residents to use.

Amalgamation is a topic that comes up between these two communities. There was a vote last year where, not surprisingly, 59% of residents in the bigger North Cowichan wanted to amalgamate while 68% of the residents in the City of Duncan did not want to amalgamate.

All this to say, I found the dynamic between these to communities to be very similar to the dynamic between Langley City and the Township of Langley.

Duncan City Hall. Select image to enlarge.

While I was visiting Downtown Duncan, I noticed that there were yellow needle drop boxes at various outdoor locations, including at one of the downtown parks.

Old E&N Railway Station with needle drop box. Select image to enlarge.

Needle drop box outside public washroom in Downtown Duncan. Select image to enlarge.

I asked a few locals what they thought about these drop boxes. I was told that they were common and, “I thought these were common everywhere.” While the boxes where bright yellow, they didn’t seem to cause much concern. In fact, there were families with children playing in the areas near where these drop boxes were located.

Improperly discarding needles occurs in communities of all sizes throughout BC. Like most things that people discard, if there is no place to properly discard needles, they will end up as litter. As discarded needles present a clear heath risk to others, it is critical that solutions are in place to reduce the likelihood that they are improperly discarded.

In October 2017, Langley City Council passed the following motion:

THAT Council direct City staff to investigate with Fraser Health, the possibility of a pilot program which would install needle drop boxes in areas where there is a pattern of discarded needles; and

THAT a public education component precede the pilot program.

To date, this pilot program has not started.

Based on what I saw in the City of Duncan, I will be following up on the status of a needle drop box pilot program for Langley City.

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