Pubdate: Thu, 21 Jun 2001
Source: Abbotsford News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 Hacker Press Ltd.
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


It's an issue that likely won't grip the Central Fraser Valley as 
completely as the furor over SE2 - but judging from the recent 
letters to the editor in this newspaper, it can be just as emotional.

It's the idea of a "needle exchange'' for drug addicts in downtown 
Abbotsford, the historic centre of our city and a place coping with a 
number of problems of attracting business. According to the 
Abbotsford Downtown Business Association, the last thing the old town 
needs is a needle exchange.

As they told the city in January: "We would suggest that council 
would not be all that excited about one of these programs moving into 
their building or next door to city hall.''

Others, however, argue it's a "health issue.'' Dispensing clean 
needles will prevent the spread of infectious disease and avert many 
deaths, defenders say. They also cite the view the drug war exists 
simply to fuel a huge justice and law enforcement bureaucracy, which 
employs thousands of people.

According to a recent report to city councillors, there is now no 
actual needle exchange downtown. What exists today is described as a 
physician supervised "referral program enabling clients to obtain 
methadone from authorized pharmacies.''

Council, in conjunction with the local health region, has yet to make 
a decision regarding a needle exchange.

Meanwhile, statistics from the Abbotsford Police board show that 
robberies and burglaries are on the rise, mainly due to addicts 
stealing for cash for a fix.

If we were to err on any side in this issue, it would be on the side 
of addiction prevention. Cocaine and heroin are scourges upon the 
earth (much like alcohol, ironically legal), and a stroll through 
some parts of downtown (don't do it after dark) will show the results.

If addicts are to get methadone, or even clean needles, a condition 
to that should be they seek mandatory treatment to get off their 

The key is to break the connection with the dealers. Stop that, and 
the pushers move out of town looking for other customers.

Simply supplying needles to shoot up again isn't the answer. What is?

That's what we pay our policy makers, such as city and health 
authorities to decide. And we admit the decision won't be an easy one.
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MAP posted-by: Josh Sutcliffe