Pubdate: Sun, 03 Sep 2000
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2000 Winnipeg Free Press
Contact:  1355 Mountain Avenue, Winnipeg Manitoba R2X 3B6
Fax: (204) 697-7288
Author: Kim Guttormson


MOUNT Carmel Clinic has asked the Winnipeg Health Authority to take over 
its needle-exchange program, after a review recommended splitting up the 
highly successful Street Connections.

"The board looked at what is the best way of doing this job," Mount Carmel 
executive director Tom Kean said.

Street Connections is a combination of two programs -- the needle exchange 
and retrieval, aimed at curbing the spread of infectious diseases, and the 
former POWER service, which assists prostitutes.

Kean said a review by Prairie Research Associates found the two programs 
should be administered separately, and that it made sense for Mount Carmel 
to continue running the POWER component out of 50 Argyle St.

But the needle exchange posed a more difficult problem, the review found. 
The program operated out of a building on Main Street until March, 1999, 
when the lease was terminated. Finding a new location was difficult, and 
the program -- which trades clean needles for used ones in hopes of 
stemming the spread of HIV and hepatitis A, B and C -- has since operated 
out of a van.

The clinic also began a trial needle-retrieval program this summer with 
$30,000 in funding, which has three staff respond to complaints about 
needles or condoms in neighbourhoods, and also canvasses areas where used 
syringes are typically left. The program, which will run until the end of 
October, picks up between five and 10 needles a day, on average, Kean said.

Kean said the study, which canvassed community opinion, found the only 
acceptable area to place a permanent home for the needle exchange was 
industrial, and the locations close to Mount Carmel were cost-prohibitive.

As well, it reinforced the idea that the problem is city-wide, versus one 
only found in the inner city, and that more than one site should be considered.

Kean said the report recommends having the Winnipeg Regional Health 
Authority administer the program, or be part of a coalition that does.

"The WRHA has the resources to facilitate program development," Kean said.

A spokeswoman for the WRHA said the proposal is being reviewed, but no 
decision has been made.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens