Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mount Pleasant: A Downside, or, Who to Call When You Find a Discarded Syringe

Today I found this on the street next to a bus stop as I was walking home from preschool pickup:

I know there's a needle pickup service & I'd heard to call 311 to sort it out. I googled it when I got home & found surprisingly little information online. After several minutes of scanning menus & several search attempts on the City of Vancouver website, I called 311 & was given another number to call. Seems like it should be easier to find this information, so I decided to get the word out by blogging.

I love my neighbourhood & wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the city. But it is a bit depressing that part of living here is finding used syringes on the street. Part of raising street-smart kids here is teaching them not to touch discarded needles. It's not something I see a lot--two in the past year, but before that I only saw one other at least five years before.

I think if we keep pushing for more harm reduction programs like supportive housing, needle exchanges & safe injection sites like Insite, this problem will get better. In the meantime, here's what to do when you find a discarded syringe.
  • Don't touch it or pick it up
  • Call the Needle Pickup Hotline: 604.657.6561
  • Describe exactly where the needle is located so it can be found easily
  • If you prefer to email, the Needle Pick-up Email is: needlevan@phs.ca

The Community Pick-up Van will be there to recover and dispose of it safely. The hotline offers rapid needle recovery service 7 days a week, 20 hours a day, between 7am & 3am. This service also provides needle disposal to SROs & non-profit organizations running housing with their own internal needle exchanges.

I've put this number into my cel phone so I can call right away next time. Here's hoping you won't find a discarded syringe in your travels, but if you do, now you know who to call.

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  1. Thank you! I just found one yesterday on st George and was wondering who to call... esp since it was right across from Robson park. Perfect timing. The number is in my phone now too.

  2. Is it not possible to train a critical mass of community folk to know how to safely retrieve and dispose of needles? I imagine the basics would be wear rubber gloves, put in a sharps disposal container... I get that if someone gets stuck no one wants to feel responsible for that (or be liable), but what about the interim time between calling the hotline or emailing them, and someone coming to get the thing? Just asking if this system makes the most sense. Not sure. I deal with needles every day (I take daily injections for MS) and I know that I would grab it and dispose of it. Not recommending that for the general public. But I don't think I could walk away.

    1. You raise an interesting question. I don't know that there aren't people picking up needles--maybe a community watch group?--but I've never heard of it. I know if I were going to deal with needles myself I'd want tongs & a sharps container. I don't really want to have to carry that around with me always, so the hotline is a good solution for me.

      As for the delay between calling & retrieval, I get the impression it's not long--maybe an hour? When I called, the person I spoke to said he'd go get it right away. I didn't walk past the same spot until a day or two later, but it was gone by then.


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