The City of Duncan will contribute $15,000 a year to allow the region’s enhanced sharps-collection program to continue, and is hoping the Municipality of North Cowichan will match the funding.
A staff report by Paige MacWilliam, Duncan’s director of corporate services, that was presented at the council meeting on March 21 stated that the $49,000 grant the city received in 2020 from the Community Action Initiative Wellness & Harm Reduction Grant program to increase the service level of the sharps collection program will run out at the end of the month.
The grant funds were used to expand the existing program from one crew member who worked three hours per day, three days each week, to two crew members working three hours per day, seven days each week.
In addition, the funding was used to buy a vehicle to allow the clean-up crew to also collect garbage and debris for the first time.
The vehicle also expanded the program’s coverage area to include from Beverly Street to Boys Road and from Government Street to Lakes Road, which are in the jurisdictions of both Duncan and North Cowichan, and enabled the team to assist with cleaning up debris in this area left from homeless encampments.
Island Health contributes $23,000 annually towards the program, which is operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association, and that funding is expected to continue.
MacWilliam said the business community in Duncan has been impacted negatively by the debris and sharps associated with the opioid crisis that are left on private property, and the enhanced sharps-collection program has proven helpful.
“The phone number for the Peer Sharps Clean-Up Crew was widely shared, particularly with business owners along the highway corridor,” she said. “Since the beginning of the expanded program to the end of February, 2022, the team received 307 phone calls and collected 15,062 sharps and 20,756 kgs of garbage and debris. Prior to the implementation of the enhanced program, the city spent $46,045 in 2019 on cleaning up encampments. The total amount spent in 2021 was $18,209, which equates to roughly a 60 per cent reduction in clean-up costs to the city.”
MacWilliam said that at a meeting between officials from Duncan and North Cowichan on March 7 to discuss the Safer Community Plan, participants indicated their support for continuing the program at the existing service levels at a cost of $30,000 annually, or $2,500 per month.
“The number of sharps and the volume of debris collected are significant,” she said. “If council supports the continuation of this program, staff recommend requesting that the total annual cost be shared with North Cowichan on a 50/50 basis.”
Council unanimously agreed.