Pubdate: Tue, 01 Mar 2005
Source: Chilliwack Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Chilliwack Times
Author: Mike Chouinard
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


For property and business owners along Alexander Avenue, the problem
over a needle exchange moving into their neighbourhood boils down to
one of communication.

About 30 of them gathered for an information meeting Monday morning at
city hall. At one point, one person even threatened to hold off paying
city taxes, and it was clear most were unsettled by the prospect as
well as the lack of notification about the move.

"I just found about it this morning," Ken Popove, a local business
operator, said.

Another man described the development as a "real cloak-and-dagger
little deal."

The program had been running from a site in the Southgate area but had
to move because of surrounding renovation. With little time to find a
new home, program co-ordinator Samantha Mohan managed to locate a spot
on Alexander.

Mohan made the point that the exchange and counselling programs are
run out of inconspicuous locations rather than health units because of
the clients' need for privacy.

She also clarified that needle exchanges make up only about 10 per
cent of the broader harm reduction program for clients, with the rest
focussing on counselling and other treatment services for addicts.

Concerning the needle exchange itself, Mohan said it was tightly
controlled and that clients must bring back a used needle before they
receive a new one.

"They know that there's certain rules," she said.

The neighbours who showed up at the meeting expressed a number of
concerns, such as the type of people who would be using the facility,
the hours of operation, the numbers of clients and so on.

The program has existed for 11 years, including three at the last
location. Staff Sgt. Gerry Falk, who was at the meeting, said the
operation does not have a history of causing trouble for the
surrounding neighbourhood.

"There's been no increase in crime where they are," he

Realtor Wayne Massey, who helped Mohan locate the new site, added he
had not even been aware of the previous location. He urged the
business and property owners to be calm, rather than make threats
against city council or the real estate company. Massey also said if
the harm reduction program does cause problems for the area, they
could always revisit the issue.

"If it doesn't work out, we can sit down here again," he said.

The Ministry of Health oversees the program so it does not need a
business licence. Nor does the property need to be rezoned.
Nonetheless, Coun. Mel Folkman agreed to chair the informal meeting
and said he understood the concerns of the people who came to the meeting.

"Obviously there has been a bit of a communication lag here," he said.
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