IH raises concerns over needle buyback programs

Interior Health is continuing its efforts to get used needles off the streets. One of the methods they are using is installing public sharps containers in key areas.

But Dr. Silvina Mema, a Medical Health Officer at I-H in Kelowna, says these containers may not be compatible with needle buyback programs for a number of reasons.

“There’s the risk of getting poked with needles, and the risk of people vandalising the sharps containers to get the needles out to get paid for them,” says Dr. Mema. “There’s also the risk of individuals asking for more needles so that they can return them (unused) and get money from them.”

Dr. Mema says communities should consult with their leading health authority before implementing programs such as needle buyback programs.

On the other hand, Interior Health's portable sharps containers have so far been a success, with drug users able to carry them around and safely dispose of needles immediately after use.

Interior Health says they were successful in properly disposing roughly 99 percent of used needles throughout several communities in 2017.