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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN BC: Editorial: Harm Reduction Is Useful And Necessary
Title:CN BC: Editorial: Harm Reduction Is Useful And Necessary
Published On:2012-01-27
Source:Nanaimo Daily News (CN BC)
Fetched On:2012-01-28 06:02:45
HARM REDUCTION IS USEFUL AND NECESSARY

Harm reduction isn't only about protecting the health of a drug user.
These types of programs reduce the impact narcotics have on many
aspects of society, from health-care costs to crime.

We're glad that the Vancouver Island Health Authority is expanding its
harm-reduction kits around Vancouver Island, including Nanaimo, as
long as they do so with proper consultation and transparency.

Last year, VIHA started distributing kits with crack-pipe mouthpieces,
syringes and other items in Nanaimo as part of its secondary
harm-reduction program, geared to discreetly reducing the spread of
disease among addicts.

Distributing these kits is controversial, like most harm-reduction
programs. But it's important that health authorities keep moving
forward with them because the benefits are so far-reaching.

Health officials said last year that a drop in HIV transmission among
injection drug users in B.C. is further evidence of the need to expand
harm-reduction programs.

According to a provincial report released last year, there were 64 new
cases of HIV reported among injection drug users in 2009, compared to
137 in 2000. It attributes the drop to drug therapy programs,
harm-reduction strategies and other projects to help treat at-risk
populations.

Studies have shown that there is a window of about three and a half
years between the time people contract hepatitis C and the time they
contract HIV, if a person continues risky behaviours. This is when
health professionals and social workers can intervene and stop the
spread of disease.

The drop in HIV cases also means that fewer precious health-care
dollars will have to be spent on pricey treatments.

Research also shows that harm-reduction programs can reduce
crime.

Simon Fraser University health sciences professor Benedict Fischer
published a study calling upon health authorities to go beyond giving
crack pipes and needles to addicts.

He looked at 148 crack cocaine users in Nanaimo, Campbell River and
Prince George and recommended creating inhalation sites as a calming,
safer alternative for crack addicts who sometimes experience psychotic
episodes smoking the drug on the street. Removing them from public
places reduces harm to the public, too, he said.

We don't think Nanaimo is quite ready for these kind of facilities.
Health officials have encountered vocal criticism for far less extreme
initiatives.

For example, south Nanaimo residents were outraged in 2007 when public
health nurses in vans started showing up in alleys, handing out
crack-pipe mouthpieces and other supplies to addicts.

Walter Cavalieri, founder of the Toronto Harm Reduction Task Force,
called upon health officials to be "respectfully fearless" of
opposition to harm-reduction strategies.

We're not sure such an aggressive approach is warranted. Proper
consultation is key to these types of initiatives succeeding.

People must always be made aware of what is happening in their
neighbourhood, otherwise the service providers risk alienating the
public.

Yet at the same time, officials must not let a vocal minority
influence sound decision-making.

We hope people will focus less on the potential negative aspects of
harm reduction and more on the benefits it can bring. When that
happens, we'll be able to make even more progress on tackling addiction.
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