Pubdate: Tue, 02 Jun 2009
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Times Colonist
Author: Richard Watts
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Group Ignores 'No-Go' Etiquette In Bid To Assist Drug Addicts

Passing out hypodermic needles downtown near an elementary school 
could endanger community efforts to find a fixed distribution site, a 
health official said yesterday.

Shannon Turner, director of public health for the Vancouver Island 
Health Authority, said the best way to deliver a needle exchange is 
to work with the community, the police, the city and all other groups 
now trying to find a site.

"That is the path to take. That is the path we have all agreed upon," 
Turner said in a telephone interview.

She was commenting on a protest move by a group calling itself Harm 
Reduction Victoria to distribute hypodermic needles in the 900-block 
of Pandora Avenue, kitty corner to St. Andrew's School at 1002 Pandora Ave.

The move, part of a campaign to spur official efforts to build a 
fixed site where needles would be handed out, violates the code of 
conduct developed for the mobile-delivery system now paid for by the 
Vancouver Island Heath Authority.

That code states no needles will be handed out near schools, daycare 
centres or open businesses, and it promises cleanup efforts will be made.

Turner said she hopes the people passing out needles on behalf of 
Harm Reduction Victoria, many of whom are students or researchers 
from the University of Victoria, will show a similar sense of responsibility.

"We hope they will be accountable for cleanup," Turner said.

But Shane Calder, a spokesman for Harm Reduction Victoria, said his 
group is a lobby group not a service provider. It doesn't follow any code.

Calder said his group's primary responsibility is to drug users. So 
they haven't gone out to hear from people at St. Andrew's School or 
the surrounding community.

"The sort of consultation we have done is mostly with drug users," Calder said.

"Our interest is to find out what they [drug users] want to do and 
stay accountable to that group, and not the parents, not [the 
Vancouver Island Health Authority] or any other service provider," he said.

Calder repeated a previous assurance that his group will distribute 
needles only during evening hours, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. The 
distribution, he added, will continue only until Saturday -- a time 
frame previously left unsaid.

Keeler Pollard, principal at St. Andrew's School, expressed dismay 
that the group has decided to work outside regular channels to 
establish a needle exchange.

"It's a proximity issue," Pollard said.

"It should not be near schools or playgrounds or daycares."

The contentious issue has been around since May 2008, when the fixed 
needle-exchange site on Cormorant Street was shut down after six years.

In that case, the landlord issued an eviction order after neighbours 
grew sick of discarded needles, blood and human excrement lying on the ground.

Since then, VIHA contracted with AIDS Vancouver Island to provide a 
mobile needle delivery. Providers travel a fixed route at a fixed 
time by van, bicycle or foot, handing out needles to anyone who asks.

A group called the Needle Exchange Advisory Committee has been struck 
to work out solutions, with an expressed preference for a fixed site or sites.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom