Pubdate: Fri, 07 Oct 2016
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Glenda Luymes
Page: A3


Peer-based education, disposal, overdoses and treatment options part
of new plan

Drug use was a topic Melanie Sinclair hoped to avoid discussing with
her kids for a few more years. But an evening visit to a Maple Ridge
mall changed that.

Her husband took their seven-year-old son to the bathroom and found it
strangely busy.

"There were people sitting on the floor in the stalls," said Sinclair.
"I can guess they were using drugs."

Her husband decided to use the family bathroom - usually reserved for
parents with young children - and found a sharps container almost
overflowing with used needles. When he informed staff about the full
box, he was told it had been replaced 30 minutes earlier.

"We used the opportunity to teach our son about drugs, but the whole
situation was disturbing," said the mother of two. "I'm not sure what
the answer is, but things need to change."

On Thursday, the Fraser Health Authority announced new harm-reduction
programs for the Fraser Valley, including a needle recovery program
and peer-based education services focused on needle disposal,
overdoses and treatment options.

The harm-reduction program, which will be operated by Rain-City
Housing and Support Society, comes as several Fraser Health
communities, including Maple Ridge, Surrey and Chilliwack, deal with
public drug use and the proliferation of used needles in public
spaces, parks and schoolyards - not to mention the fentanyl crisis
that has led to a jump in B.C. overdose deaths.

"We'll be providing a broad range of harm-reduction services, but
we'll be specifically focused on syringe recovery," said Rain-City
co-executive director Greg Richmond.

Another part of the strategy is a peer-based approach to harm
reduction, said Fraser Health medical health officer Dr. Ingrid Tyler.
Former drug users will be key in establishing connections and
providing information about "safe using practices" and treatment
options to those dealing with drug addiction.

The new program is one piece of Fraser Health's approach to harm
reduction, which also includes identifying possible locations for
supervised injection sites.

Rain-Coast will begin its work on the new harm-reduction strategy by
identifying service gaps in the Fraser Valley. "We're looking to add
to, not replace, existing services," said Richmond.

It's already clear Surrey will require needle collection services, he
said. In September, a needle-collection program run by the Lookout
Emergency Aid Society was forced to close because of lack of funds.
Between April 1 and Aug. 31, the program collected 21,099 needles. In
all of 2015, employees collected 24,175 needles.

In Chilliwack as well, more used needles are being found on
playgrounds and schoolyards. After parent complaints in early
September, the school district has started paying an extra $1,200 a
day for a security company to keep an eye on school grounds after hours.

Parent Trista Dickey was upset when on the second day of middle school
her son was told not to play on a nearby field during recess. She
walked the perimeter of the field and quickly discovered why.

"There were needles in the weeds, a pile of garbage behind the
backstop, a broken crack pipe, condoms, even feces," she recalled.

The field was cleaned up after some confusion over who was responsible
for its maintenance, but Dickey no longer lets her kids play anywhere
without first checking the area for needles.

Krystina Lester lives beside a Chilliwack school and recently
collected six needles during a 20-minute walk along her fence line.

"We need more services out here," she said.

Chilliwack Coun. Ken Popove applauded the Fraser Health announcement.
The chair of the mayor's Housing First committee has been calling on
Fraser Health to improve harm-reduction services and needle collection
in the community.
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