The region’s enhanced sharps-collection program will continue now that the Municipality of North Cowichan has agreed to partner with the City of Duncan through a municipal funding arrangement to help pay for it.
The City of Duncan decided in March to contribute $15,000 a year to allow the program to continue, with the hope that North Cowichan would also contribute the same amount.
Island Health contributes $23,000 annually towards the program, which is operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association Cowichan Valley Branch, and that funding is expected to continue.
The program started in 2017 in response to the heightened concern of residents and businesses to the increase in discarded needles in the community.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said the program is an important service for area businesses and residents.
“I’m pleased that [North Cowichan’s] council agreed to work with the City of Duncan to see it continue,” he said.
“It’s another piece of the overall structure we need to address these issues.”
In 2020, the City of Duncan received a $49,000 grant from the Ministry of Health’s Community Action Initiative to enhance the initiative, officially called the Mobile Peer Clean-up Crew sharps-collection program, to provide seven-day-a-week coverage and increase service levels.
Duncan took the lead in applying for the funding with support from North Cowichan, the Community Action Team, Island Health, Canadian Mental Health Association CVB, and the House of Friendship.
Thanks to this funding, the expanded program ran from Oct. 26, 2020, to March 31, 2022.
But when that funding ran out, the councils in Duncan and North Cowichan saw the value in the program and stepped in to provide the funding for it to continue.
The clean-up crew’s collection routes cover the core area of the region from Beverly Street to Boys Road and Government Street to Lakes Road, and municipal parks.
In addition to increased hours and collection routes for the pick-up of sharps, the expanded program provides the clean-up crew with access to a vehicle, which enables them to collect garbage and debris in addition to sharps.
The municipalities are also reviewing the possible inclusion of the Cowichan Commons area now that they have agreed to financially help the program to continue.
From the beginning of the expanded program up until the end of March, the team received 318 phone calls and collected 16,848 sharps and 23,496 kgs of garbage and debris.
Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples said having a phone number for businesses and residents to call when they encounter sharps adds another piece of support as the community works to address the complexities and impacts associated with the opioid crisis.
Canadian Mental Health Association CVB’s executive director Lise Haddock added that the expanded program helps decrease stigma, and supports social stabilization and community inclusion by increasing recognition of the mobile peer clean-up crew’s activities.
The crew responds to requests from residents and businesses.
The phone number is 250-732-7736.