Pubdate: Sun, 25 Feb 2001
Source: Mission City Record (CN BC)
Author: Cheryl Wierda


Mission council has no plans of leading the way in implementing a 
local needle exchange program, despite high levels of diseases 
related to intravenous drug use in the community.

"Abbotsford should have a needle exchange first," said Mayor Randy 
Hawes, noting the population breakdown in the Fraser Valley. "We are 
a city of 30,000."

The issue was brought before council last week after a letter from 
medical health officer Dr. Gillian Arsenault asked council to look at 
providing a needle exchange facility.

She said Mission has the second-highest rate of Hepatitis C in 1998 
in the Fraser Valley Health Region. "Hepatitis C is a virus that 
spreads very easily by sharing used needles," said Arsenault. 1999 
rates have Mission at a tie for third of the five communities in the 
Fraser Valley Health Region for Hepatitis C rates. As well, Mission 
has the highest levels of HIV and Hepatitis B in the health region, 
said Arsenault in the letter. They are spread by sharing needles and 
by sexual intercourse.

Sam Conway, program coordinator at Fraser Valley Connection Services, 
which provides needle exchange services in Chilliwack, said there is 
a huge need for a similar program in Mission. Chilliwack is the only 
community in the Fraser Valley to provide needle exchange.

Conway said there is a need for needle exchange for intravenous drug 
users in both Abbotsford and Mission. "Discussion needs to happen," 
she said. "[Mission] needs to find out what these programs can do."

Off the top of her head, Conway said she can think of four people in 
Mission who bring in a total of approximately 5,000 needles a month.

"That means they are each servicing 10 to twenty other individuals," 
said Conway.

Councillor Abe Neufeld acknowledged harm reduction is an important 
principle, but said Mission's council wished to gather more 
information about needle exchange programs before they considered one 
in Mission. Mission's council has a say in the establishment of 
needle exchange facilities and substance abuse clinics, because of a 
zoning bylaw amendment they passed in November 1999 which prohibits 
such clinics in all zones of Mission.
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