Pubdate: Thu, 26 Nov 2009
Source: Monday Magazine (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Monday Publications
Authors: Jackie Kanyuk, Philippe Lucas, Doreen Mueller, Harold Munn, JoAnne 
Murray, Carmel Thomson, Pieta VanDyke, Jo-Ann Youmans


Re: "An unwelcome surprise," Nov. 18-25

Dear Minister Falcon and Dr. Kendall:

As members of the Victoria Needle Exchange Advisory Committee to VIHA
we were disappointed to receive a letter advising us that the
committee is dissolved. This committee mirrored a broad spectrum of
interests, as it included representatives from all Victoria community
associations, the downtown business community, downtown schools,
downtown churches, the Victoria Police Department, the City of
Victoria, and needle exchange service providers.

While some of us experienced negative consequences from the previous
needle exchange, committee members were unanimous in endorsing a Harm
Reduction approach and a Distributed Model of providing needle
exchange services.

Every member of the committee understands the impact of drug addiction
and the need for a compassionate approach to ensure that treatment and
services are available. And while some of us are frustrated with the
length of time that it is taking to find sites, we are committed to
seeing the process to a successful conclusion.

After 18 months on the committee we only recently learned that VIHA's
Board of Directors has a policy that we believe hampers the successful
search for a needle exchange site. This policy requires staff to
receive Board approval prior to any public consultation. We believe
this policy will inevitably result in a build-up of concerns, fears,
and negativity while staff waits for the go-ahead to consult with the
neighbours in any area where a potential site is identified!

We are pleased VIHA endorses a Distributed Model. However, a
distributed model of secondary exchanges cannot replace the ancillary
services offered at a fixed site exchange, which include nursing,
referral to detox and drug treatment services, education on safer
substance use and reducing disease transmission, and much needed
social capital. Fixed site needle exchanges exist all over North
America, and the evidence is clear, they can improve public health
without reducing public safety or increasing disorder.

Successful referral to addiction recovery services requires the
development of long-term trust with staff whose primary concern is the
care and rehabilitation of people with severe addictions. This
essential element is much less likely to be present in the model that
VIHA has announced, and the result is likely to be a lower rate of
recovery. Successful recovery will be of benefit not only to those who
are addicted, but will provide a healthier environment for downtown
residents and businesses.

Reasons for the dismissal of the assembled partnership constituting
the Victoria Needle Exchange Advisory Committee were not discussed at
a committee meeting. Its dissolution was communicated via email. We
request the courtesy of a meeting.

We request VIHA re-instate the Victoria Needle Exchange Advisory
Committee and continue down the road to re-establishing this necessary
health service in Victoria.


Jackie Kanyuk, North Park Community Association

Philippe Lucas, City of Victoria Councillor

Doreen Mueller, Rockland Community Association

Harold Munn, St. John the Divine and Downtown Churches Association

JoAnne Murray, Fernwood Community Association

Carmel Thomson, Burnside Gorge Community Association

Pieta VanDyke, James Bay Community Association

Jo-Ann Youmans, VicWest Community Association 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D