Yes, there are intravenous drug users living in the Agassiz area, a counsellor told council Monday night.
“The stats are there,” said Kim Lloyd, from Pacific Community Resources. “There are users here.”
And because of that, she said the community would benefit from a needle exchange program. Council listened intently to Lloyd, who is a counsellor and HIV/AID prevention coordinator with PCR in Chilliwack, where a mobile needle exchange and harm reduction program has been operating for a number of years.
Clients there know where to find the program, and have grown to trust her and the other staff who run the exchange. In Chilliwack, they park a blue van in the back of the lot where the Empress Hotel was. They’ve now branched out to Boston Bar, and are hoping to include Hope and Agassiz in the near future.
There is one drug user who already diligently brings needles in from the Agassiz area on behalf of others, she said.
Councillor Darcy Striker was concerned about a mobile unit close to the business area along Pioneer Avenue.
“I don’t really want to see a line up to a blue van,” he told her, adding that there is already regular line up of methadone users, going into the local drug store.
But the needle exchange operates out of the public’s eye for numerous reasons.
Users aren’t likely to come to a program that sits in the middle of a busy neighbourhood.
“They like a bit of privacy,” Lloyd said, and the program would be advertised “discreetly” by word of mouth and through similar Fraser Health programs already operating in Agassiz.
Other concerns were that the needle exchange was not an injection site.
“We do not do that,” she stressed.
A needle exchange is not all about needles, she said.
“It’s about harm reduction,” she said, and finding ways to interact with drug users to provide information about counseling services available to them.
“Addiction is everywhere,” she said. “It’s insidious. It’s killing our communities.”
Lloyd is hoping to set up the mobile unit once a week for two hours, and asked council for guidance on finding a suitable location.
“We are seeking, hopefully, you’re approval to bring our services to your community,” she said.
Councillor Holger Schwichtenberg moved to have the issue referred to District staff and that move was seconded by Striker. Mayor Lorne Fisher was not in attendance, and Councillor John van Laerhoven is currently deputy mayor.