Pubdate: Mon, 31 Jan 2011
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2011 Black Press
Author: Roszan Holmen
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


You can count on Geoff Young to counter the relatively comfortable 
consensus among Victoria city councillors on harm reduction.

For those following the issue since 2004, Thursday's city council 
meeting unfolded predictably.

New councillor Marianne Alto joined her colleagues' well-rehearsed 
chorus, urging the Vancouver Island Health Authority to take action. 
Her motion asked VIHA to create a working group with a mandate to 
open a fixed-site needle exchange facility, coupled with treatment 
options for patients and a solid Good Neighbour Agreement to minimize 
friction with nearby residents.

Before endorsing the needle exchange policy, most on council quibbled 
only the shades of grey. They debated the pros and cons of allowing 
food service at the needle exchange.

Coun. Philippe Lucas argued the city should be willing to host the 
service in one of its own buildings; council felt a needle exchange 
would be best suited to a provincially-owned building.

It was seven years ago that city council formally endorsed the 
principles of harm reduction. It's an approach to service that seeks 
to minimize the adverse effects of substance use without pushing or 
requiring the user to conquer their addiction in order to get help.

The city's "five pillars strategy," which emphasizes the need for 
treatment, housing, enforcement and prevention in conjunction with 
harm reduction, hasn't changed since then.

What has changed since 2004 is the closure of the fixed-site needle 
exchange on Cormorant Street, followed by an unsuccessful attempt by 
the health authority to open a new site on Princess Avenue.

At Thursday's meeting, academic Bernie Pauly informed discussion with 
her latest report on Housing and Harm Reduction, prepared for the 
Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.

"What's different about our report ... is we started with the 
essential foundation of housing as opposed to starting with issues 
around substance use," Pauly said. "There's considerable evidence ... 
that provision of housing itself prevents the harms of substance use."

Young, who's not often one to vote with the pack or pull his punches, 
dismissed the claim.

"I'm never quite sure what is being presented because it's the belief 
of the writer and what is being presented because it's supposed to be 
factual," said Young. "I don't know if low-barrier philosophy works . 
I'd say the Cridge Park campground was a really great example of 
low-barrier housing ... we found that it didn't work."

Others took exception to referencing Victoria's former tent city as a 
useful example.

Pauly, with a controlled smile, addressed the attack on her research.

"It is very easy, when the evidence does not fit with one's own 
personal opinion, to dismiss the evidence as lacking credibility," 
she countered, adding her report is backed by current research.
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