Needle disposal discussed for Maple Ridge

FHA increasing funding for rig-dig programs but won't say how much

The City of Maple Ridge is trying to reduce the number of used needles lying around in parks

The City of Maple Ridge is trying to reduce the number of used needles lying around in parks

Maple Ridge and Fraser Health are working out a plan to reduce the number of used needles lying around city parks and playgrounds.

One strategy could involve creating a safe needle disposal committee.

A group composed of city staff, Fraser Health and members of the public will try to identify where used needles are found most. That information will then be passed on to programs in which users pick up needles.

Fraser Health could also put more money into that program in addition to organizing a public forum to explain the issue.

“We take the well-being of the public seriously and look forward to working with your team around this issue to develop an action plan,” Fraser Health medical health officer Dr. Shovita Padhi said in a Sept. 18 letter to the city.

Mayor Nicole Read has pushed for provincial help in collecting needles, which have been found with such frequency in Maple Ridge in recent months that residents have formed groups to go around collecting them.

The needles are one part of B.C. harm reduction programs, providing clean ones to drug users in order to stop the spread of disease.

“We are also increasing funding to peers to increase the number rig dig programs to pick up discarded needles around Maple Ridge,” the letters said.

Fraser Health spokesman Tasleem Juma said that may not mean hiring more people for the rig dig program, but instead increasing the hours of those involved now.

People are paid a daily rate to collect needles.

The rig dig program began in Maple Ridge in August and has been used in other cities. Those who participate are trained so they can safely collect the needles and are given sharps boxes. Rig dig programs are “internationally accepted as best practice,” Juma said.

They get users involved in cleaning up the needles, and is a way of providing education and support to the drug using community.

And so far, the feedback from the program has been positive. The rig dig workers also meet regularly with Fraser Health to tell them where lots of needles are being dropped.

Fraser Health and the city will meet soon to start the committee and plan a public forum on needle collection.

“We’re happy to provide that information to the public,” said Juma.