Pubdate: Wed, 16 Jun 2004
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Vancouver Courier
Author: Naoibh O'Connor


The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has asked the school board to help 
it track the number of discarded needles in the city.

In March of 2004, 343 needles were recovered from a one-block radius 
surrounding Strathcona elementary school.

During the same month, 80 were picked up around Lord Roberts. Although far 
fewer were collected near Britannia, MacDonald, Grandview and Queen 
Alexandra schools, the troublesome problem of drug users dumping dirty 
needles exists in those neighbourhoods as well.

Fear that blood-borne pathogens will spread to adults or children who come 
into contact with the needles prompted the health authority to launch 
needle exchange and recovery programs several years ago.

But the number of needles found on school grounds has never been recorded 
formally or shared with the health authority.

The authority uses the information from its sweeps to identify where the 
needles are, when discard patterns change, determine areas requiring 
cleanup and where it needs to install and remove needles from safe disposal 

By including school board information, it's believed a more effective 
response can be coordinated.

The health authority does not share the data in detail with outside groups. 
They do, however, meet with members of the Vancouver Police Department and 
others regularly to discuss hot spots and propose strategies to deal with them.

Most of the schools that are affected by dirty discarded needles are in the 
Downtown and Downtown Eastside.

Staff at those schools already check the grounds each morning to ensure any 
dangerous objects are removed. Grounds staff also do sweeps of the 
properties and keep count of information at each site.

Allan Wong, COPE trustee and chair of the planning and facilities 
committee, believes one agency collecting all the information is a good 
move. Although he doesn't believe needle numbers found on school grounds 
are nearly as high as those found in the one-block radius, he still insists 
it's critical information to track.

"Children walk to and from school, so that's a concern to us as well," he 
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