Abbotsford lacks 24/7 service for used-needle pickup

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An Abbotsford dad is concerned after he found a used needle in a parking lot on a Sunday and was unable to find an agency that could come pick it up.

Mathew Kowalenko, 33, was recently taking his daughter for a tutoring lesson off of Ventura Boulevard when he noticed a used needle in the parking lot. He contacted the Abbotsford Police non-emergency line and was told to call Positive Living Fraser Valley Society.

“It just went to voicemail. I called twice. No one ever answered, no one got back to me,” he said. “I mean there are kids around. You have to do something.”

Abbotsford has no dedicated 24/7 service for immediate pickup of used needles while the city of Chilliwack has employed a private company to handle requests at all hours.

Used-needle pickup in Abbotsford is handled by several non-profits affiliated with Fraser Health, which don’t operate after business hours. While the city of Abbotsford does have an after-hours program for city services, it only responds when the needles are found on public property.

Kari Hackett, the executive director of Positive Living Fraser Valley Society, said her organization receives daily calls for assistance for used-needle pickups. But, generally, pickups only happen during weekday business hours.

“We don’t have the funding to [offer the service] seven days a week,” she said. “We’re one of the largest harm-reduction providers in the Fraser Valley.”

Fraser Health documents the amount of used-needle pickup requests through their contracted agencies in different municipalities. In Abbotsford, these agencies are responding to 25 requests a month compared to only 1.5 calls a month in Chilliwack.

Griffin Securities, the private company under contact with the city of Chilliwack, has been offering the used-needle pickups for about a year now.

Employee Drew Goldstone said they receive at least four calls a week requesting the service.

“There is definitely a noticeable reduction,” he said. “It only takes one kid to get pricked.”

Currently, if citizens want to personally dispose of needles found around the city, they can find dropoffs at five locations in Abbotsford.