Pubdate: Thu, 15 Apr 2004
Source: Recorder & Times, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 Recorder and Times
Author: Mark Calder


The health unit official trying to get a needle exchange program started in 
this area says she's unsure when it will begin because she can't find a 
pharmacist to deliver it.

Jane Futcher, director of clinical services for the Leeds, Grenville, and 
Lanark District Health Unit, said a task force set up to implement a 
program will continue with public education efforts in order to convince a 
pharmacy and a community to host the pilot project.

"I've gone beyond predicting when it will start," a frank Futcher said 

Needle exchanges, which are at work across the province and country, aim to 
keep addicts from sharing needles and with them the hepatitis B and C 
viruses and HIV.

Programs not only hope to protect addicts from chronic diseases associated 
with intravenous drug use, but want to keep them in touch with local health 
officials to offer aid when they want to quit. Needle exchanges also ensure 
that dirty needles are properly discarded so bystanders aren't accidentally 

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Harm Reduction Task Force, including public 
health nurses, addictions workers and police, hopes to run the pilot 
project, and once the bugs are worked out expand that project to other 
parts of the counties.

The hope is to use area pharmacies whose staff would get training to 
dispense and collect needles. A study found many drug stores are already 
disposing of dirty needles and selling syringes to people who don't need 
them for medical reasons.

While the unit was targeting Smiths Falls as the centre for the pilot 
project, the task force could not find a pharmacy there willing to take on 
the project. And they haven't had much luck in other areas of the 
tri-counties because pharmacists worry about what might happen allowing 
addicts in their stores.

"I really think people need more information," Futcher said. "Some of the 
pharmacists' concerns centre around safety of staff."

The task force recently hosted an information session for pharmacists 
featuring Malcolm Jones, the co-ordinator of a Belleville-area program, to 
try to address pharmacists' concerns.

"It's a misconception among the general population that it would be a 
dangerous thing to do. It has not proven true in places where programs have 
been set up."

She said the health unit will have to concentrate on public education to 
get the right messages out about the program to convince the general public 
and specific groups such as the police about the merits of such programs.

"It will happen wherever we have the most support to start it," she said.

She says people must realize there will be benefits not only in taking 
needles off the street and protecting the health of addicts, but in the 
health of taxpayers' pocketbooks as well.

Studies have shown that for every case of HIV a drug addict contracts, it 
will cost the public $150,000 in health care expenses over their lifetime.
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