P.E.I. still in discussions with communities to set up safe-disposal boxes for discarded needles

A needle is seen on the Confederation Trail in Charlottetown in 2018. So far, only three of a planned 16 sharps containers have been set up by the province.  (Jesara Sinclair/CBC - image credit)
A needle is seen on the Confederation Trail in Charlottetown in 2018. So far, only three of a planned 16 sharps containers have been set up by the province. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC - image credit)

P.E.I.'s Department of Health is still in talks with potential partners to set up safe-disposal boxes in communities across the Island.

Late last spring, the government purchased 12 of a total 16 sharps containers meant to be installed across the province to address concerns about improperly disposed needles. But so far, only three have been set up.

Shawn Martin, harm reduction co-ordinator with the Chief Public Health Office, says the province is still in discussions with local organizations and municipalities who would like to participate in the project.

He said last fall's municipal election is partly to blame for the holdup.

"Were having lots of active conversations with municipalities, really good conversations in the fall and then, of course, there were municipal elections," he said.

"So across P.E.I. there are new municipal governments that are settling in and establishing their priorities. So in the fall and then just last week, I was checking in with the municipalities we've been in touch with to see how we can keep making progress here."

'Good progress' in Charlottetown

The first three safe disposal boxes have all been installed in Charlottetown. One is at the city's Community Outreach Centre, another at the Park Street Emergency Shelter and a third was temporarily placed near the tent encampment at the Charlottetown Event Grounds.

Martin said a fourth unit will be installed just outside the Overdose Prevention Site at Belmont Street in the coming months while it undergoes renovations.

He said community service providers around the areas where the boxes have been installed have seen a "significant" reduction in the number of calls involving inappropriately discarded needles.

"We're making good progress in the Charlottetown area. And of course that means that we want to make similar progress in other areas of Prince Edward Island," he said.

The province delivers its partners most of the installation equipment, advises them how and potentially where to install the boxes, and also connects them with vendors who could take charge of the waste disposal, Martin said.

It is currently in conversations with Summerside, Kensington and Cornwall to possibly set boxes in those communities.

Martin said he hopes all boxes are installed by the summer.

"Whenever folks are ready to go, we'll deliver them," he said.

"The reception has been overall positive. And then from there, like with any project, it's the implementation that is oftentimes the tricky part. And so that's what we're working through right now with partners."