Anyone who spends a significant amount of time in downtown Victoria is at least somewhat aware of the potential for spent hypodermic needles to be discovered.
That said, finding one in a public or private area is always grim reminder of the reality that people in our midst struggle daily with addiction. And despite the efforts of local groups, those that work with the city’s drug-addicted population, to clean up after the relatively small number of addicts who can’t or won’t dispose of needles safely, there are innocent, unsuspecting people getting pricked.
Fears over the potential to be pricked by a needle used by someone who may also have a blood-borne disease are enough to heighten awareness for many people coming downtown. But the public shouldn’t have to be hypervigilant to avoid such a scenario.
While the leaving of needles at discrete sites well-known to the cleanup crews is more common – the circumstances around the first two needle pricks reported last week remain foggy – two needles found points-up in planters outside a Johnson Street salon seems a clear indication of someone messing with civilized society, not simply discarding of their rig in an unsafe manner.
Clearly, Island Health and other downtown service providers such as Victoria Cool Aid Society, Our Place and SOLID (Society of Living Intravenous Drug Users) are committed to keeping the public safe in an area where people in the height of addiction are more prone to actively use. Saying that, sometimes there needs to be a wakeup call to remind those supporting the end users that more vigilant cleanups are needed.
As a progressive and compassionate society determined to reduce opioid deaths, we allow injection drug use – sometimes supervised, sometimes not – to freely happen in this area. But public health and safety, for those outside the realm of the drug addicted community and those within it, is too important to take for granted, even when much good work is being done to maintain it.