Needle Exchange – 221 Trunk Road

The Needle Exchange is currently located at 221 Trunk Road, at the corner of Trunk Road and Ypres Street, near downtown Duncan.

Here is a map showing the location of 221 Trunk Road:

Here is a Google Street View image of the facility, taken in 2009:


I visited the Needle Exchange in August 2018 to ask some basic questions about the facility. Here is some of what I was told:

  • The Needle Exchange is currently operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association under contract to the Vancouver Island Health Authority, (VIHA);
  • VIHA currently issues 6 month contracts for organizations to run the Needle Exchange.  The current contract with the Canadian Mental Health Association expires in October 2018;
  • There are an estimated 200 intravenous drug users in Duncan and surrounding Cowichan Valley close to Duncan;
  • In the week prior to my visit, the Needle Exchange had an average of 69-70 separate visits per day. Note that the Needle Exchange only counts individual visits, not particular individuals. If one individual visited the Needle Exchange twice in one day it would be counted as two separate visits;
  • The Needle Exchange also functions as a safe injection site but not at the level of a “supervised consumption site” like Insite in Vancouver;

The Needle Exchange does not just exchange needles; it also hands out kits, free of charge, to drug users. Each kits contains supplies for five injections. An example of one of these kits is shown below:

An example of the drug use kits handed out, free of charge, by the Needle Exchange in Duncan. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
An example of the drug use kits handed out, free of charge, by the Needle Exchange in Duncan. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

Here are explanations of the items contained in each kit:

Disposable, Single Use 1 ml Syringes – each kit contains 5 x Disposable, Single Use 1 ml Syringes. typically used for injecting insulin. These syringes are also used for injecting heroin.

The kits handed out by the Duncan Needle Exchange include 5 x 1 ml single use, disposable insulin injection needles. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
The kits handed out by the Duncan Needle Exchange include 5 x 1 ml single use, disposable insulin injection needles. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

Vitamin C powder – 5 x 100 mg packets. When added to the heroin solution prior to injection, the Vitamin C apparently prevents the heroin solution from coagulating.

The kits handed out by the Duncan Needle Exchange include Vitamin C powder. When added to the heroin solution prior to injection, Vitamin C apparently prevents the herion solution from coagulating. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
The kits handed out by the Duncan Needle Exchange include Vitamin C powder. When added to the heroin solution prior to injection, Vitamin C apparently prevents the heroin solution from coagulating. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

Each kit contains one elastic band, used to wrap around the arm to bring up a vein prior to injecting heroin

An elastic band included in the kits handed out to drug users by the Needle Exchange in Duncan. Drug users wrap these around their arms to bring up veins in which to inject heroin. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
An elastic band included in the kits handed out to drug users by the Needle Exchange in Duncan. Drug users wrap these around their arms to bring up veins in which to inject heroin. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

Alcohol swabs – each kit contains 10 alcohol swabs, used to clean the skin at the injection site prior to injecting

Alcohol swabs are included in the kits handed out to drug users by the Needle Exchange in Duncan. Drug users use these to clean the skin at the area where they are planning to inject heroin. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
Alcohol swabs are included in the kits handed out to drug users by the Needle Exchange in Duncan. Drug users use these to clean the skin at the area where they are planning to inject heroin. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

Distilled Water – each kit contains five sealed vials of distilled water. Heroin is added to the distilled water and the solution is heated prior to injection

Vials of distilled water are included in the kits handed out to drug users by the Needle Exchange in Duncan. Drug users add heroin to the distilled water and heat up the solution prior to injecting. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
Vials of distilled water are included in the kits handed out to drug users by the Needle Exchange in Duncan. Drug users add heroin to the distilled water and heat up the solution prior to injecting. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

Plastic containers for heating heroin solution – each kit contains 5 disposable plastic containers (at the bottom of the photo below) used to hold the heroin solution while it is being heated prior to injection.

Alcohol swabs (left), vials of distilled water (center) and containers to heat up heroin solution (bottom) are included in the kits handed out by the Duncan Needle Exchange (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
Alcohol swabs (left), vials of distilled water (center) and containers to heat up heroin solution (bottom) are included in the kits handed out by the Duncan Needle Exchange (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

The Needle Exchange also hands out these sturdy plastic containers for used needles – Contaminated Sharps. Each container holds ten 1 ml insulin syringes. The containers are incinerated when full.

The Needle Exchange in Duncan hands out these "Contaminated Sharps) containers free of charge. The containers are made of sturdy plastic. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)
The Needle Exchange in Duncan hands out these “Contaminated Shhttp://www.duncantaxpayers.ca/wp-admin/edit-comments.phparps) containers free of charge. The containers are made of sturdy plastic. (photo by DuncanTaxpayers.ca)

Note: VIHA does not require drug users to return used syringes in order to get new, clean syringes. As a result there are a lot of used syringes discarded on streets, parks and public areas.

We will do a separate post on the Warmland Sharps Pickup Team which regularly patrols Duncan, Municipality of North Cowichan and Cowichan Tribes land to recover discarded syringes.

 

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