The final safety task force meeting of the year, held at Trail city hall last week, was laden with the very complex topic of mental health and addiction.
While long term solutions require ongoing attention, one of the outcomes following an in-depth talk given by Interior Health last Tuesday will bring a more immediate resolution.
It deals with the problem of used needles and how to promote safe disposal of this particular drug paraphernalia which has turned up on beaches, parks, and in other city locales this year.
“The meeting was predominately a presentation by IHA (Interior Health),” Trail Coun. Sandy Santori told the Trail Times. “In terms of their efforts and what they are doing, as partners of the task force, to deal with mental illness and drug addiction, and the programs that they provide,” he explained.
“We also had an extensive conversation with regards to the needle drop. It’s been a challenge in terms of communicating who is to pick up the needles, and who can provide boxes and distribution .. but (we are) working with IHA as well as with ANKORS to ensure that the needle program is in place and in the appropriate areas throughout the entire community,” Santori said.
“And the RCMP have identified some other strategic locations where they should be used.”
Since forming earlier this year, to date, the Community Safety Task Force has been about bringing local agencies and services together as a way to collaborate and educate each other.
Santori is the city’s appointed chair, and over the past 11 months, he says the experience has been an eye-opener.
“There is a stigma and myself being a senior, I was the first to say it’s ‘those people,’” he shared. “So the first thing I had to do was get out of my mind that it’s ‘those people.’ And the more we become educated it’s helps us in coming up with solutions.”
After hiring a professional consultant and hosting a public session in Trail a few months ago, the task force came up with a “Community Safety Action Chart.”
Immediate efforts on the “chart,” which is essentially a guide for short term actions to be taken by the city, focuses on specifics such as beefing up measures to dispose of illicit drug paraphernalia like dirty needles, improving lighting in downtown Trail, and possibly introducing a RCMP bike patrol in 2020.
As well, are esoteric recommendations like quarterly meetings to connect frontline agencies, and backing campaigns that raise public awareness on “mental health first aid.
“My experience on the task force has been one of education … and I absolutely think it’s worthwhile,” Santori said.
“It’s given us an opportunity to identify intervention programs that we can initiate and it has given us the opportunity to meet all of the other partners and to have a better understanding of the role IH plays … I don’t think people are aware or what services are actually available in our region, particularly Trail,” he added.