The City of Port Alberni has started installing sharps collection containers at various locations around town in a phased approach.
Parks, recreation and heritage manager Willa Thorpe, working with Port Alberni’s Community Action Team, said she reached out to medical health officer Dr. Paul Hasselback to confirm some of the “hot spots” in the community.
Over the coming months, city staff will be monitoring these boxes, and looking at expanding or installing more boxes in multiple locations.
Port Alberni’s Community Action Team was established earlier this year after the province announced $1.5 million in funding to combat the overdose epidemic in 18 B.C. cities. Port Alberni was one of these cities.
The provincial funding aims to address the unsafe drug supply, provide “pro-active support” and increase access to harm reduction materials and naloxone, used to counteract the effects of an overdose.
Thorpe said she reached out to various communities before the containers were installed. Oceanside, Campbell River and Courtenay have all recently received sharps collection boxes, while Duncan and North Cowichan have had a sharps collection program in place for the past 18 to 24 months.
In Nanaimo and Victoria, a program was initiated 10 years ago.
“We’re now coming up to the standard that our fellow communities are at,” Thorpe said.
Councillor Denis Sauvé said a pair of portable and unsupervised boxes had been found in the washrooms at Harbour Quay, filled to the brim.
“My concern is that this is open and unsupervised for the public and I’m concerned about the kids having access, not knowing what it is,” he said.
Thorpe said these boxes were not part of the city’s installation, but confirmed that city staff will look into it.
“The current boxes that have recently been installed are quite secure,” she said.
“They’re not easy to move, they’re all locked and secured.”
Sharps containers have already been installed inside city hall, the aquatic centre and the Echo Centre washrooms, as well as the outside of city hall and the Port Alberni Friendship Centre on Fourth Avenue.