Public Debate on Needle Exchange Needed says City Councillor
Prince George, B.C. – A Prince George city councillor would like to see Northern Health do a better job of handling its needle exchange program.
Brian Skakun says he’s received many phone calls and complaints about carelessly discarded needles over the years.
“One of the biggest issues is the van that drops off the needles and the debris that is left in neighbourhoods as a result. Some people are just getting so upset about it.”
He says he understands that Northern Health’s harm reduction strategy is to protect drug users but says that’s not fair to the rest of the population.
“What about other people’s rights to have a safe, clean neighbourhood and to have these needles picked up and taken out of there?”
Fiann Crane, Northern Health’s regional director of preventative health, acknowledges Skakun’s concerns.
“It seems that we hear with some frequency that people are finding areas where there seems to be an increased amount of drug related litter, so we are concerned about that and very interested in understanding where those places are so we can maybe reposition drop boxes if necessary.”
However she still defends the program as a vitally important tool in aiding the city’s most vulnerable.
“The needle exchange is one component of a harm reduction program that’s aimed at reducing the risks for the people who choose to use drugs and risk diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C,” says Crane.
“The harm reduction program is critically important to prevent or to minimize and mitigate the risks to these vulnerable people in the community.”
But Skakun still believes the program needs to be reevaluated.
“Northern Health has to take the lead on this and the whole needle exchange issue and I think at some point there needs to be some kind of public debate,” he says.
“Does it need to move? Then where would it go? Is there still value in it? These are things way beyond my scope but I think we need to have that open community dialogue.”