Pubdate: Tue, 01 Mar 2005
Source: Chilliwack Progress (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 The Chilliwack Progress
Author: Jennifer Feinberg, Progress
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


As far as used needles go, Chilliwack streets are virtually syringe-free.

But that's in no way an accident, says Sam Mohan of Fraser Valley 
Connection Services. "The reason why our streets are so clean is that we 
have a regimented program in place with our harm reduction services. It's a 
one-for-one policy that puts the onus on clients to return used syringes in 
order to receive a clean one."

The spring cleanup has begun.

Every February Fraser Valley Connections staff and volunteers conduct an 
aggressive community awareness and cleanup campaign that furnishes agencies 
with gloves, a Connection business card and a container for used syringes.

"We go into every hotel, motel, gas station, police car, college, pharmacy, 
medical office and community agency with a fresh sharps container, along 
information on what to do if someone finds a needle," Ms. Mohan says.

Monthly records are kept which are then reported to an advisory committee.

The service works closely with community partners like RCMP, City of 
Chilliwack, as well as community and public health agencies. Harold Zinke 
keeps the downtown streets clean for the Chilliwack Downtown Business 
Improvement Association.

"In the past year I've found about two or three dozen needles," he says. 
"If this was Vancouver you know that number would be higher."

Mr. Zinke says whenever he finds one, he picks it up gingerly with gloved 
hands and pliers. He places it in a special sharps container and delivers 
it to Fraser Valley Connection Services.

The mean average of recovery so far this year is 102.5 per cent, which 
means they've received more needles than they've given out, says Ms. Mohan. 
Occasionally volunteers field calls from Abbotsford parks officials who 
want to know what they should do with the recovered used needles they come 

A community like Abbotsford, which has professed its opposition to harm 
reduction philosophy, has great challenges with used needles in the 
streets, suggests Ms. Mohan.

"There's no recovery process in place and so they're everywhere," she says.

"People find them in parks and on school grounds."

Councillor Mel Folkman says harm reduction services, which include needle 
exchange, but also referrals to detox and recovery agencies, are integrated 
into Chilliwack's network of services.

"It keeps our streets very clean and we manage the program very well," he 
says. "Sam (Mohan) keeps a tight reign on the program."

A lot is known about every individual who's involved with Connection services.

"We collect stats on gender, age, referral agency, and more," Ms. Mohan says.

There's another approach to the idea of cleanup, "which refers to getting 
clean," Ms. Mohan adds.

Referrals to detox and rehab programs are a crucial part of the continuum 
of care offered by Connection services.

"It's about a fresh start, providing more eduction for clients, and an 
expansion of our outreach services to outlying communities that do not 
receive any outreach harm reduction," she adds.

Rev. Doug Ireland, who sits on the harm reduction committee's advisory 
board, says having needle exchange services in town, "gives the community 
an enormous amount of public safety. It means they'll be free from 
accidental needle sticks. At least that's my impression."

RCMP media liaison Const. Sean Sullivan says officers "don't see too many 
needles" in the downtown core.

"So obviously the program speaks for itself with high rates of return on 
needles," he says.
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