Recent History – 2004 and beyond
By Gary Rusak, March 2005
Moving the Dawson Creek needle exchange program from the Health Unit to a downtown location was one of the proposals discussed at the Drug Free D.C. meeting on Monday afternoon.
“The accessibility issues tend to be a bit of a barrier,” said city councillor Brent Neumann, who chairs the committee. “We are talking about the possibility of taking that program and moving it downtown where it creates more accessible needle exchanges.”
The needle exchange program runs three times a week for two hours each day through the Health Unit located next to Dawson Creek and District Hospital on 13th Street. The exchange is funded and operated entirely by Northern Health.
Neumann said that if the exchange was moved to a downtown location and operated in the evenings and weekends it would reach more addicts.
“We have talked about the concept about proposing to move it,” he said. “The hospital is just not part of the common traffic flow. It is quite amazing that even when you take people a couple blocks away you begin to reduce accessibility.”
The goal of the exchange is to get the high risk used needles – which could contain any number of viruses including AIDS – off the street.
“From a harm reductive standpoint, if a used needle gets on the street it creates risk for everyone including children,” he said. “If they bring an old needle in and get it off the street, strictly from a hygienic standpoint, it is good for us.”
As well, Neumann points out that any contact between addicts and health officials could have a beneficial effect for the community.
“At least you have the opportunity to build a relationship with these people,” he said. “We can create an awareness that there is help for them and start to help them begin to see that there is a different way of living.”
Needle exchanges have been controversial since the provincial government started supporting them a decade ago, but Neumann believes that there is a place for the program in the city.
“These people are already using, they are already addicted and they are already out there,” he said. “What we are trying to do is create a little more safety for them. That is why we call it harm reduction. We are trying to find some ways to reduce the harm with the hope that there are some that we will be able get off the street and back into becoming a contributing society member.”
The committee also will be distributing an informational pamphlet and arranging for a drug awareness public meeting in the next month.