Vancouver running out of free crackpipes
As Vancouver Coastal Health’s crackpipe distribution pilot wraps up its first month, two partner agencies are reporting user demand is outstripping supply.
The 60,000 pipes for the eight-month pilot means partners can only distribute 250 pipes daily to last the program, which began Dec. 6 and aims to monitor user demographics as part of VCH’s drug harm-reduction strategy.
Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) co-founder Hugh Lampkin said his E. Hastings Street location is experiencing daily lineups, with the initial distribution rate cut nearly in half to make supplies last.
VANDU now distributes 50 pipes daily.
The Portland Hotel Society (PHS), meanwhile, hasn’t capped its daily distribution. Society co-founder Mark Townsend compared the program to distributing necessities at a refugee camp – there’s never enough.
He said PHS, which runs InSite, has distributed monthly highs of 20,000 pipes through its own needle and pipe distribution program. The 3,000 pipes PHS received from VCH in December were exhausted in three days.
“At the beginning of the study, we expressed our concerns that (the pipe supply) is a tiny number ... but we were told the number’s staying the same,” Townsend said. “To meet the demand we would need around 1,000 per day.”
Users picking up kits at VANDU Monday said people in the community now have little reason to share, and many are grateful to return and pick up new pipes daily.
Crack addict Patricia Halcrow said it was often difficult to get new pipes in the past, leaving users with no choice but to purchase second-hand pipes or share.
“That’s how I got HIV,” she said. “Just get more pipes and help people. Since the pipe program, I always have my own pipes ... I never have to share.”