There is now a third place in Prince Rupert where people can access needle exchange programs.
In January the service started being offered at the Primary Health Care Clinic on McBride Street, administered by a nurse practitioner.
The new program augments needle exchange programs already in place in the city. For over three years, the Skeena Health Unit and Mental Health and Addiction, both located in the Ocean Centre Mall on Third Avenue West, have offered the program with some successes.
Michael Melia, Manager of North West Mental Health and Addiction, said a third location has been added because feedback from the community suggested the Ocean Centre Mall location was limiting.
If people have had a bad experience they will not return or maybe it’s a case of wanting anonymity, he explained. By offering more options, the potential is there to reduce the number of harmful needles still out there.
“Needles are being found in locations that present a hazard,” he said.
That’s something Civic Pride Coordinator Charlotte Rowse can vouch for.
While she’s never seen or picked up a needle during a garbage pickup, some of her volunteers have.
“There are some areas like down the Borden Street stairs and behind the college where volunteers have found needles. We don’t let kids go there to do the clean-ups and we always tell people to be really careful,” Rowse said.
Melia said it’s difficult to measure how many people are accessing the services because there are times when one person might collect supplies for others people.
“But Deborah Gray at the Health Unit told me that they get the same number of needles returned as they give out,” he said.
The McBride Street location hasn’t been advertised yet, although posters will be going up this week to advertise it to the community.
“We’re very open to looking at expanding the program. This is the first step to open it up and hopefully pave the way for making other secondary sites,” Melia said.
Northern Health is trying to change the way it offers programs, he added.
“The Addictions Day Program that’s been running here since November 2009 has been positive. We’ve had a number of success stories and good feedback from community partners. The target for the coming year is to look at ways of supporting organizations working with youth with addictions.”