Pubdate: Thu, 18 Mar 2010
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2010 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Richard Watts, Canwest News Service


Counselling Office; 'Poor Insight,' Says Director of Recovery Centre

VICTORIA - Drug users could be offered addiction treatment and clean
needles under the same roof in a proposal now being considered by the
Vancouver Island Health Authority.

The authority is looking at using its Addiction Outpatient Treatment
office in downtown Victoria as a site for distributing hypodermic
needles and other paraphernalia for illegal drug use, such as crack
pipes and sterile swabs.

It's an idea the executive director of Cedars, an addiction recovery
centre north of Victoria, calls "absolutely insane."

"I can't imagine anybody would have such poor insight as to think
that's a reasonable thing to do," said Neal Berger, noting that at
Cedars, staff have to be careful about even showing a movie featuring
drug use. Even a flu shot can become a trigger point for a recovering

"Just the sight of a needle, just the thought of it ... this
[addiction] is a brain disease and the brain starts playing tricks on
people," Mr. Berger said.

According to the health authority's website, the addiction outpatient
office offers counselling and consultation on a drop-in basis most
weekdays for addicts looking for help to get off drugs.

VIHA spokeswoman Suzanne Germain said the office is just one of 60
sites being considered across the Island for distributing needles.

A final decision on which sites will offer the supplies will be made
in late June or early July.

The rationale behind offering clean needles to addicts is that it
reduces the spread of infectious diseases, such as AIDS or hepatitis
C, through the sharing of needles.

Ms. Germain said the addiction outpatient office could be exempted
from distributing needles if a case can be made that the two functions
are not compatible. "There is that process in place."

The health authority has a long history of problems implementing its
harm-reduction strategy.

A fixed needle exchange in Victoriacloseddown in 2008 after ongoing
complaints from neighbours about public disturbances and hazards.

Proposals for permanent needle-distribution sites at other city
locations were also spiked, amid community outrage.
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