Syringes cause concern

There is no clear answer to what is considered by many to be a disturbing situation throughout the Okanagan.  

As the snow melts, people are finding discarded syringes in public spaces. 

On the weekend, a Kelowna father told Castanet he found a discarded syringe next to a daycare facility. 

Also on the weekend, a Vernon mother posted a photo on the Vernon and Area Community Forum of several discarded syringes next to a parking lot. 

And, just the other day, another concerned person posted a photo on the forum of a cache of syringes found in the hollow of a tree at a public park in Vernon.  

"This time of year it is fairly common for us to find quite a few," says City of Vernon community safety coordinator Rachael Zubick. "This isn't an unusual year."

Zubick, who has been tracking needle-finds since 2001, says it is becoming more high-profile because of social media.

"Every community has drugs in it," she says. "It has always been something we have talked about at this time of year." 

Over the years they have changed the way they categorize the needle-finds from how many they have found, to how many have been found capped, how many they find uncapped, how many they find that are still packaged. 

In the early years, Zubick says they might find a couple hundred discarded syringes, but they also only tracked needles in the summer months. 

As the years passed, drug use changed. Some years they would find more than others, and there have been years where her team have found less than one-hundred.

Zubick does say, however, the discarded syringes are a symptom of a much larger disease. 

"It all has to do with drug use and the changes in that drug use. Right now we are dealing with a crisis."

Zubick says now is a time to have the discussion. It is time to educate the public.

"It's a whole continuum of issues that we have to deal with at a societal level." 

 The assumption is that this is the street level population who is doing this, and Zubick says that is a dangerous assumption.

She compares telling the socioeconomic background of a person by a discarded cigarette to that of a discarded syringe. It can't be proven whether it is the street entrenched or otherwise. 

In Vernon, there has been an increase receptacles in town, and efforts are being made to create more solutions to find more receptacles — healthcare providers are even providing recepticles to the best of their abilities says Zubick.

"We are doing something in order to combat that, although, as with anything else, there always other things we can be trying and that would take a shift in the way the community views addiction."

Zubick says the fear around discarded needles itself is the worst part, which she admits makes sense and is perfectly understandable. However, statistically speaking, what they can and can not carry, in terms of the risk levels, are minimal. 

"Let's educate our population."

Some of that education will come during an community cleanup April 6. The effort is a collaboration between organizations like the DVA, local street clinic, COOL Team and the Upperroom Mission. They'll be meeting at the Community Safety Office at 7:30 a.m.

There is also another needle clean up set for Vernon this Saturday organized through the Okanagan Community Watch

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