Cycle of harm
EDITORIAL, THE TIMES
It is the Hippocratic Oath - first, do no harm.
Yet for seven years, the City of Abbotsford has hampered the ability of its medical community to reduce the suffering of our most fragile citizens: intravenous drug addicts.
In 2005, council approved a zoning change to ban harm reduction services such as needle exchanges.
The move was brought in under an air of self-righteous morale belief, not on information based on facts.
Under the tutelage of former Abbotsford MP Randy White, who railed against harm reduction, then-mayor Mary Reeves declared "harm reduction is a social services job creation program."
Despite stacks of evidence supporting harm reduction in countless jurisdictions around the globe, the councillors firmly pulled the blinders over their eyes. Abstinence was the only way, they said.
Reeves warned needle exchanges would attract drug users to the city. Then-councillor George Peary said handing out clean needles would encourage addicts' "pathological behavior."
Sadly, the opposite has been true. Chilliwack's Fraser Valley Connection Services had dispensed clean needles at that point for a dozen years, and reported Abbotsford addicts went there to get clean needles. Chilliwack had almost no needles in its city parks. Abbotsford city crews went to FVCS for advice on how to dispose of more than 3,000 needles they found in their parks every year.
Abbotsford now has the third highest rate of hepatitis C infections in B.C., which already has double the national rate. Drug overdose hospitalizations are higher in Abbotsford than the rest of Fraser Health.
Harm reduction is not just about doling out needles or methadone. It gives desperate people basic health services, counselling and hope that there is a way out.
People do recover.
Drug addiction is a medical issue. It can happen to anyone. On May 28, after two years of "studying" the issue, the council will finally have another look at this ridiculous, ill-informed bylaw. It's time for the city council to go cold turkey and drop its addiction to governing by morality.