Pubdate: Thu, 25 Apr 2013
Source: Abbotsford Times (CN BC)
Section: Front page
Copyright: 2013 The Abbotsford Times
Author: Rochelle Baker


Abbotsford council voted unanimously on Monday to amend its
controversial bylaw prohibiting any harm reduction measures in the

The current anti-harm reduction bylaw enacted in 2005 bans such
programs or measures such as the distribution of condoms, needle
exchanges, marijuana dispensaries or supervised injection sites.

Fraser Health has repeatedly urged the city to allow needle exchange
services as a means to prevent disease transmission and lower
Abbotsford's high rate of hepatitis C infections, believed to be tied
to addicts re-using dirty needles and crack pipes.

The health authority also argues such services would decrease overdose
deaths and help outreach workers connect with addicts or high-risk
individuals and direct them to other needed services, including detox
and treatment.

Eighty-five per cent of people who provided comments during the public
input process or at two public forums supported implementing harm
reduction in Abbotsford, stated a staff report for council Monday.

Council has directed staff to prepare an amendment of the existing
anti-harm reduction bylaw.

Though it was recommended the city step away from interfering with
medical services, deemed a provincial responsibility, the municipality
still has a responsibility to address community wellbeing, noted the

Staff will develop a "good neighbour" policy and agreement for needle
exchange service providers to mitigate impacts on the community and
address public nuisance, land use and law enforcement issues.

Any organization distributing needles should also be required to
provide other services, recommended staff.

During the public forums on harm reduction, many residents and service
providers criticized Fraser Health for long wait lists and its lack of
detox services.

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman noted the city will still push Fraser
Health to provide more detox and treatment services.

"But the old bylaw clearly isn't working, and we're doing what we can
to develop something that's better," said Banman.

The city will also actively participate on Fraser Health's advisory
board as it moves forward with its harm reduction service plan.
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