Pubdate: Wed, 05 Feb 2003
Source: Surrey Now (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc., A Canwest Company
Author: John Sarko


The fate of Surrey's needle exchange will be tossed around at a meeting 
tonight (Wednesday).

Dr. Gulzar Cheema, Minister of State for Mental Health and MLA for 
Surrey-Panorama Ridge, will meet with Mayor Doug McCallum and officials 
from the Fraser Health Authority to address Surrey council's request to 
have the needle exchange moved from its 135A Street location.

McCallum believes moving the needle exchange will help reduce crime and 
drug use there.

"It's a fishing hole for drug dealers," said Surrey Coun. Dianne Watts. 
"They know the addicts are going to be there."

Council approved a resolution last March requesting the province 
decentralize the needle exchange program. City officials want the program 
moved to health units across the city.

"Things like putting it in health units and mobile units," said Mayor 
McCallum. "It's part of a block-to-block cleanup in Whalley."

The mayor added nothing concrete has come from meetings taking place to date.

"We're into discussion with it at this stage," he said.

Front-line staff say the problem with drugs in the 135A Street area was 
there long before the needle exchange program.

"That's why the society was established here," said Linda Syssoloff, 
director of programming for the South Fraser Community Services Society, 
which administers the needle exchange. The needle exchange has been at that 
location since 1992.

Syssoloff, who was unaware of today's meeting, said the current site, used 
by more than 600 people monthly, offers a variety of health services, 
including testing for HIV and Hepatitis C.

"We develop a relationship with people," she said. "We encourage testing. 
People who are now clean and sober are also healthy.

"I think a mobile unit would be good, but you still need a fixed site," she 

Cleaning up Whalley one block at a time, including removing the needle 
exchange, is no way to combat drugs, say critics.

"I'm uncertain of what council is hoping to achieve," said Coun. Penny 
Priddy. "I don't know what the other models are. We need an overall drug 
strategy for Surrey. I suggest the problem is because of that street and 
not the needle exchange."
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