Pubdate: Tue, 15 May 2001
Source: Abbotsford Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 The Abbotsford Times
Author: Ed Winchester


Abbotsford's intravenous drug users are turning in thousands of dirty
needles every week at the nearest needle exchange in the Fraser Valley.

But the program co-ordinator for Fraser Valley Connection Services in
Chilliwack says Abbotsford is still years away from getting its own
needle exchange program.

"It's very scary for people. They only hear the negative which makes
the news," says Sam Conway-Mohan. "It could take years (to establish
an Abbotsford program) and how many deaths are we going to have?"

Conway-Mohan says most of the opposition she's encountered has come
from communities that don't have needle exchange programs.

"If nobody knows what the program is about, they miss out on 84 per
cent of the good stuff," she says.

And in Abbotsford's case, Conway-Mohan says no needle exchange
opponents have contacted her.

Opponents like Marcyne Heinrichs, who took the opportunity at last
Monday's city council meeting to speak out against a needle exchange
for the city.

"Why should taxpayers subsidize the problem rather than treat

"Free needles facilitate the habit and the dealers reap the profits,"
says Heinrichs.

Her visit was timed with economic development manager Jay Teichroeb's
request to the city to send representatives to the Lower Mainland
Municipal Association's drug strategy workshop.

Mayor George Ferguson and Coun. Patricia Ross attended the May 11
meeting, held with the intention of drawing up a common municipal drug

Heinrichs says she is afraid a needle exchange program in Abbotsford
will lead to a takeover of the area by prostitutes, pimps and drug

"I do not question the intentions of these programs. Is this about
HIV? Is it really about needles or is it about drug addiction?" asks

For Conway-Mohan, residential needle exchange programs are the most
effective, allowing drug users to stay within their own homes and
comfort zones.

But attempts to start a residential program in Abbotsford were quashed
by her Fraser Valley advisory committee - which includes doctors from
Abbotsford and Mission - over concerns for her safety.

The next step would be to set up a fixed needle exchange in
Abbotsford, but that would be impossible without the support of the
city and its residents.

She says too many misconceptions remain - like Heinrichs' argument
that an Abbotsford exchange would draw drug users out of Vancouver.

"There's the misconception that people believe (users) would be moving
out to Abbotsford, but it hasn't happened in Chilliwack," says

She pointed out that providing clean needles to long-term drug users
helps to prevent the spread of blood-borne diseases.

"We're talking about stopping the spread of all these diseases to go
into the other core group of the population who don't use drugs," she
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