Questions arise over harm reduction
By Christina Toth, The Times
Abbotsford's mental heath and addictions committee began to form a questionnaire on local harm reduction practises on Tuesday as part of its task to find out how addictions are managed in the city.
The group was given its working mandate on June 7, when the council voted 6-3 to review a zoning bylaw that restricts "harm reduction" facilities. These include services such as stationary and mobile needle exchanges and free-standing methadone clinics.
The bylaw drew criticism from those who treat intravenous drug users, who pointed out in May that Abbotsford has the third highest rate of Hepatitis C in the province.
The council agreed to review its policy after requests from Fraser Health, Hepatitis Council of B.C. and the city's own social development advisory committee.
"It's an incredible move on the part of the council and it shows they are sincere about looking at this," committee chairman Milt Walker said this week.
The committee will get data on the best practises in Fraser Health, how neighbouring municipalities define harm reduction and what they do in regards to harm reduction services, said Rueben Koole, the city's social planner.
The survey will also gather hard numbers of IV drug use to provide the city with a scope of drug use and treatment services, said Walker.
"We don't have an accurate picture of what's provided here. Basically, we're going on a fact-finding mission," Koole added.
Questions on the survey will go to several groups, including treatment houses, pharmacists, churches and social service providers.
Drug users will also have the chance to fill out the questionnaires.
"I think we need to ask the addicts. There's a lot of good information - these are smart people," said Pam Willis of the Abbotsford Mission Women's Resource Society.
The questionnaire should be ready to go to relevant groups in the fall.