Charity pushes for needle exchange permit in Abbotsford
The charity behind Vancouver’s supervised injection site has applied for a city permit to run its mobile needle exchange in Abbotsford.
The PHS Community Services Society has been driving the van full of clean medical supplies to the city for four hours a week for the last eight months. Since then, advocates have been trying to have an unenforced 2005 city bylaw banning harm reduction measures such as needle exchanges and supervised injection sites overturned.
“No local residents have complained at all,” said the society’s executive director Mark Townsend on Friday. “The police park behind the van but they’ve done nothing.”
City council is scheduled to review the business license application on May 28.
“The denial of the permit would trigger legal action because you can’t appeal something if nothing’s happening to you,” Townsend explained, adding that the charity applied for a permit Thursday.
Townsend said he is very optimistic that city council will take the necessary steps to remove the legal ambiguity around the needle exchange. He thinks that would put pressure on the Fraser Health Authority to fund the initiative, the way Vancouver Coastal Health funds Insite, Vancouver’s injection site.
UBC medical anthropologist Dr. Dan Small sent a letter to Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman and all the city councillors Wednesday on behalf of the PHS Community Services Society, urging them to consider the peer-reviewed evidence that needle exchanges save lives and millions in healthcare costs.
“Needle exchange services are a stepping-stone to a successful life, a doorway into healthcare and they bring the most wounded people into the community rather than force them into the shadows,” Small wrote in the letter. “There is persuasive scientific evidence that needle syringe programs reduce the risk of HIV and (Hepatitis C) considerably.
The mayor could not immediately be reached for comment.