Pubdate: Mon, 16 Jul 2007
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Aileen Leo
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


Re: Council kills crack pipe program, July 12.

I protest this shortsighted and ideologically based move.

Ottawa faces a public health crisis from high rates of infectious 
disease among people who use drugs: 21 per cent are HIV-positive -- 
the second highest rate in Canada -- and 76 per cent have hepatitis C 
- -- a rate higher than Toronto's or Montreal's. These rates are 
alarming and pose a risk not only to drug-users but also to the wider 

Contrary to some councillors' opinions, there is compelling evidence 
that safer crack kits reduce communicable diseases and risk 
behaviours. For example, the reported frequency of pipe-sharing in 
Winnipeg decreased to 40 per cent from 79 per cent after that city's 
program was implemented.

Under the Ottawa program, the frequency of sharing implements to 
smoke crack has declined and many users have changed from injecting 
drugs to smoking crack, which is less risky. As the University of 
Ottawa study (partially paid for by the city) looking at the program 
noted, "these findings suggest the urgent utility of replicating this 

Our centre's health providers can also attest to the benefits of this 
program linking these clients with needed health services. This 
surprise council decision, made without health-care providers and 
other affected stakeholders present, calls into question how 
supposedly democratic decisions are made.

Any drug strategy that neglects harm reduction will fail. As a 
homeowner in west Centretown, an area facing significant challenges 
from illicit drug use, I understand the concerns of residents who 
encounter the effects of open drug use within their community.

However, denying people the services they need will not solve this 
problem. Instead, it will ultimately result in higher rates of HIV 
and hepatitis C infection. This would cost thousands of public 
dollars more to treat just one person compared with the cost of this 
program, which serves the entire city.

People who use drugs are part of our community. In addition to 
prevention, treatment and enforcement, we should provide effective 
harm reduction programs-- not consign those addicted to further 
misery, ill-health and likely premature death. I urge council to 
reverse this harmful decision.

Aileen Leo, Ottawa

Somerset West

Community Health Centre
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