Pubdate: Sat, 22 May 2010
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Times Colonist
Page: A3
Author: Richard Watts


VIHA plans to help drug addicts from four facilities in Victoria area 
Councillors from suburban municipalities expressed worries yesterday 
about needle exchanges or distribution sites planned for their communities.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said he has concerns about offering 
needles through community public-health units, in particular the one 
at Quadra Street and McKenzie Avenue. Leonard said he understands the 
goal is to spread needle-exchange services throughout the community. 
"But I think they need to deal with each site individually, and they 
need to canvass the municipality."

The Vancouver Island Health Authority is planning to provide drug 
addicts with clean needles from 10 community facilities on the 
Island, four in Greater Victoria. The facilities have yet to be 
identified, but they're expected to be passing out needles by September.

It's part of Phase 1 of VIHA's strategy to cut down on the spread of 
infectious diseases such as AIDS or hepatitis among the drug-using 
population through sharing or reusing of needles.

A second phase, after evaluation of Phase I, would see expansion of 
needle distribution to 60 sites throughout Vancouver Island.

VIHA decided in November to offer needles at a variety of sites 
rather than establishing one fixed needle exchange, after two 
attempts to establish such a site were scrapped amid public outcry.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, however, plans to contact the health 
authority to express concern about the notion of needles being passed 
out from the public-health facility in her municipality.

The health unit in Esquimalt is attached to the municipal hall, next 
to a recreation centre and playground, she said, and families 
routinely show up to have their small children vaccinated.

"I really have concerns with this," said Desjardins.

Langford councillor Denise Blackwell said the "appalling" record of 
the former needle exchange on Cormorant Street in Victoria makes it 
difficult to offer needles anywhere.

"I don't see anyone wanting it anywhere near their neighbourhood," 
said Blackwell.

The needle exchange operated on the site for about six years, until 
2008. The landlord finally evicted the facility after neighbours 
complained of ongoing disturbances and debris such as dirty needles, 
condoms, bloody refuse and even feces left behind.

Shannon Marshall, spokeswoman for VIHA, said three fixed-site needle 
exchanges are already operating in Nanaimo, Courtenay and Campbell 
River without problems. Mobile services, where needles are 
distributed from designated vehicles, operate in the Cowichan Valley, 
Port Hardy and Victoria.

Distribution of needles from health facilities such as public health 
units occurs in Port Alberni, Parksville and Ucluelet. It's also 
underway in Victoria through agencies like the Access Health Centre 
on Johnson Street.

Medical health officer Dr. Murray Fyfe said yesterday that experience 
with other locations, such as Vancouver, has shown secondary 
distribution of needles from health facilities is hardly noticed.

"It's very low-key. It's very small-scale," he said in a telephone 
interview. "It's unlikely to have any impact at all within any community."

Fyfe noted in a presentation to Victoria city council earlier this 
week that dangerous behaviour such as sharing or reusing of needles 
has actually dropped significantly among drug addicts since the 
Cormorant Street outlet closed, falling from 25 to 30 per cent just 
four years ago to about 12 per cent now.

"But there are still people out there who are sharing needles," said Fyfe.

"Ideally, the goal is, around people who continue to use drugs, that 
they would use new, clean needles for each injection."
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart