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:
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.
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.
Each kit contains one elastic band, used to wrap around the arm to bring up a vein prior to injecting heroin
Alcohol swabs – each kit contains 10 alcohol swabs, used to clean the skin at the injection site prior to injecting
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
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.
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.
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.