Kamloops Chamber of Commerce calls for better managment of harm reduction supplies

By Adam Donnelly
February 27, 2018 - 5:36pm

KAMLOOPS — In 2017 in our province, the number of fatal overdoses in British Columbia rose by a staggering 43% - 1422 all told, up from 914 in 2016 - many from illicit opioids like fentanyl being added to other drugs. As a result of the ongoing opioid crisis, harm reduction measures have been implemented, like supervised consumption sites and needle distribution, but in some cases that harm reduction has caused problems for other stakeholders in the community who say many of the needles being distributed aren’t being disposed of properly. It’s a problem the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce plans to take to the Victoria, in hopes of seeing a change in policy at the provincial level.

They’re an unfortunate by-product of the battle to reduce the harm caused by illicit drugs. According to a news release from the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce, discarded needles are causing problems for many of the organization’s member businesses.

“The majority of needle issues [happen] around the [areas where the] majority of use [occurs], and we know that with summertime coming up there’s going to be more activity in our parks and our high traffic locations, and that’s something we really want to minimize,” Kamloops Chamber of Commerce 1st VP Joshua Knaak explained.

In Monday’s news release the Chamber played out the steps they’d like to see taken to help limit the number of needles handed out by harm reduction service providers, as well as help reduce the number of those needles that find their way onto the streets of our city.

“This is a provincial issue because this is a mandate that comes from the province,” Knaak said. “First of all, to reduce the number of needles, but secondly, to increase the amount of contact between users an those that provide them with support and with services.”

As it stands now, the Province and it’s regional health authorities operate using the distribution model, meaning harm reduction service providers are required to give out as many needles as a person requests.

“Needle distribution is the idea that if folks are presenting for health services in the form of harm reduction supplies, we provide them with what they need, with no barriers,” Kate Fish from Interior Health explained.

Fish, who is a Regional Harm Reduction Coordinator with IH says the reason for the move from the old policy of needle exchange to the distribution model was a result in an increase of needle sharing, which can cause the spread of infectious disease.

“As a harm reduction program, we want to see a decrease in [infectious diseases],” Fish said. “Needle distribution, and harm reduction supply distribution has been really effective at bringing those rates down.”

While Knaak and the rest of the Chamber of Commerce don’t want to those rates of infection go back up, they feel there’s a balance which could help reduce the number of needles discarded on city streets.

“Free distribution of needles is proven to reduce that {spread of disease],” Knaak explained. “All we’re asking for is the people on the front line who have the relationships [with drug users]… have that discretion… to limit the numbers of needles passed out. We’ve heard it breaks their hearts when they have to hand out a hundred needles, knowing that they’re not going see these people for another 30 days when they’d like to meet them shortly after… to provide support, and encouragement to help move them along the continuum of harm reduction.”

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