Pubdate: Wed, 28 Jan 2004
Source: Standard, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004, Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Rosalind Raby
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


A needle exchange program has been introduced on the North Shore.

The Algoma Health Unit (AHU), in partnership with several other agencies, 
is now offering a needle exchange program for drug addicts along the North 
Shore corridor.

Janice Thibodeau, executive co-ordinator of the Anishnabie Naadmaagi Gamig 
Substance Abuse Treatment Centre, says the program is housed in its 
administrative building in Blind River.

"We had discussions with the AHU about offering this service in the area," 
explains Thibodeau. "We offered a site, took it to the board, they agreed 
and the program was introduced on the North Shore in October."

Thibodeau believes there is a need for the program.

"We have had four heroin clients in the last three years. There is a need, 
albeit not a strong one, but one nonetheless.

"The centre has also received anonymous calls asking for such a service for 
people in the area.

"Even if we have one client come in and eventually get off drugs, then I 
feel the program is justified and a success."

Elizabeth Larocque, the AHU program manager for the Community, Assessment 
and Drug and Alcohol Program, agrees that there is a need.

"The recommendation to set up the program along the North Shore came out of 
the Methadone Committee in Sault Ste. Marie," explains Larocque. "We had 
inquiries as to where a needle exchange program was available on the North 
Shore. The decision was made to offer the service here and see how it's 
received. We haven't had anyone access it yet. We hope this story in The 
Standard will help."

Larocque concurs with Thibodeau's belief.

"We have had clients come into our Blind River and Elliot Lake AHU offices 
presenting staff with identified drugs and related issues," explains 
Larocque. "I can't release specific numbers, but, based on these clients 
and their needs, the board believes there is a need for a needle exchange 
program on the North Shore."

Both women make a strong emphasis on confidentiality and anonymity.

"We don't even want to know their name," says Larocque. "However, when we 
have someone come in, either to turn in dirty needles, or to pick up new 
ones, we'll offer other services. It usually takes some time to do that 
though, since we have to build up a level of trust with them.

"We can't force anyone to take treatment or hospitalize them."

Thibodeau concurs.

"Abstinence is the bottom line, but the lifestyle choices are exactly that. 
They're choices made by the clients. We guarantee them anonymity and 

"Hopefully, by coming in for the program, that will eventually lead to 

Larocque admits not everyone is happy with the program.

"We get people who think it's terrible to supply drug addicts with clean 
needles. However, there is a real benefit. I'm sure they would prefer to 
know the needles are being disposed of properly, rather than their children 
finding them in the playground."

The AHU has an annual budget of $6,000 for the program, the bulk of which 
goes to the Methadone Program in the Sault. The money is used for the 
purchase of needles, disposal containers, transport and proper disposal. 
That money doesn't include staffing. The AHU covers the staffing needs with 
in-kind support from agencies, such as the treatment centre.

"We have a lot of people who use the program in Sault Ste. Marie," says 
Larocque. "We know there is a big need in the larger urban centres.

"Whether the program will be used on the North Shore is still the question. 
We will re-evaluate the program in five or six months. A decision will have 
to be made whether the program should continue."

For more information, call 1-705-356-1681.
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