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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN AB: City Drug Program's Demise Leads To A Rise In Needle Use
Title:CN AB: City Drug Program's Demise Leads To A Rise In Needle Use
Published On:2012-01-18
Source:Metro (Calgary, CN AB)
Fetched On:2012-01-19 06:03:31

Alberta Health Services Ordered An End To The Distribution Of Crack
Pipes In August - Legality Of Program Remains A Mystery

Frontline workers attempting to aid drug addicts say they have noticed
a disturbing trend since Alberta's governing health body ordered an
end to the distribution of crack pipes.

A harm-reduction group known as Safeworks had been offering the
devices in Calgary for more than three years in hopes of curbing the
spread of disease and generating first contact with drug users.

In August, however, just as Vancouver was planning to launch a similar
program, scrutiny of the program emerged in a local media

Citing potential legal issues, Alberta Health Services ordered an end
to the pipe distribution shortly after.

Now, five months later, outreach workers like Nicole Bealing with
support agency Alpha House say the closure has led to a "huge step

"We have noticed a significant increase in clients using needles since
the program at Safeworks was closed," she said, noting that in
November the group doled out twice as many needle kits to drug users
than it typically did when the crack pipe program was running.

Advocates believe using needles over pipes increases the risk of
spreading diseases, namely HIV.

Bealing added that while the Safeworks pipes were made of glass,
others are metal and more likely to create sores on a user's lips.

Alpha House isn't alone in its fears either.

"The life expectancy of a homeless Calgarian is 48," said Debbie
Newman, executive director of the Calgary Drop-In Centre, in a written
statement. "Homeless Calgarians are vulnerable and require innovative
programs that prevent the spread of disease."

A spokesperson for Alberta Health Services pointed out that Safeworks
continues to offer other harm-reduction services, but shed little
light on whether the group would ever return to distributing pipes.

Bealing, meanwhile, says Alpha House members will continue to reach
out to addicts but fears the deck may be further stacked against them
going forward.

"It's very frustrating," she said. "You kind of start to wonder what
else might be taken away."


In Vancouver

Aiyanas Ormond with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users said
demand outstripped supply during the first month of its crack pipe
distribution pilot December. He also said the group is reaching more
addicts than ever before as a result.
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