More than 1,000 discarded needles were among the debris taken from the Cowichan River during a clean up of a section of the river in October, 2019. (File photo)

More than 1,000 discarded needles were among the debris taken from the Cowichan River during a clean up of a section of the river in October, 2019. (File photo)

Cowichan Valley’s sharps pick-up program expands

Community Action Initiative supplies $49,000 grant

The Cowichan Valley’s needle pick-up program will be expanded, thanks to a $49,000 grant.

The peer sharps collection program, which began in 2017 and deals with picking up discarded needles in the community and related social issues, has been funded exclusively by Island Health and operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

The current program provides coverage for three hours per day, three days a week, but the grant from the Community Action Initiative will allow the program to expand to four hours per day, seven days each week, excluding statutory holidays.

RELATED STORY: CONTRACT UP FOR COWICHAN’S SHARPS PICK-UP TEAM

In addition to increased hours for the pick-up of sharps, the new funding will assist with waste and garbage disposal from encampments, as well as to enhance the program’s work on stigma reduction and peer employment.

The grant was given to the City of Duncan, which took the lead in applying for the funding with support from the Municipality of North Cowichan, the Community Action Team, Island Health, Canadian Mental Health Association, and the House of Friendship.

Duncan’s CAO Peter de Verteuil said in a report that when the sharps pick-up program was first implemented in Duncan, it had more funding to provide a more robust service, which included transportation for greater impact.

But he said that currently, as a result of funding cuts to the program, it is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of the community.

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De Verteuil said that with the new funding, the sharps collection team will start each of its workdays early in the morning, with a focus on school district properties and businesses.

“The team will rotate through four quadrants, with Trunk Road and the Trans-Canada Highway bisecting the quadrants, to ensure the core area of the region from Beverly Street to Boys Road and Government Street to Lakes Road, including city parks, is covered,” de Verteuil said.

“A soft launch of the program started on Oct. 26 and will continue until the end of March, 2022. The team will be using a vehicle to expand the coverage area, which will also enable the team to provide assistance cleaning up debris left in parks from encampments. The vehicle will be branded with the CMHA logo and the phone number to enhance visibility.”

To contact the sharps collection team, call 250-732-7736.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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