IHA to meet with city after mayor says harm reduction ‘is clearly not working’

Interior Health Authority representatives are looking forward to meeting with Mayor Ken Christian to talk about drugs.

When they sit down, they’ll bring a lot of scientific evidence to the discussion, said IHA medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema, particularly as it relates to harm reduction.

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Last month, Christian said the harm-reduction program “is clearly not working,” and recommended a review of the relevant literature and piloting medical models focused on detoxing.

Mema said there is plenty of scientific research demonstrating the value of harm reduction but she agrees it’s reasonable to review “what we do and how we do it to show where we are coming from,” she said.

She said the mobile drug-consumption sites — Kamloops has one that goes between two locations — have been successful.

To date, there have been hundreds of overdoses at those sites in the province but no deaths.

Mema said IHA’s decision to create the sites was based on scientific evidence that shows it helps reduce the harm associated with the opioid crisis in the province.

Drug testing is another part of harm-reduction, Mema said, and it’s one of the reasons IHA helped ASK Wellness Centre obtain a Fourier transform infrared spectrometer (FTIR) that can identify substances in drugs.

Mema said she believes the mayor and medical staff at the health authority “have common ground. We agree in principle we don’t want people to suffer because of the drugs they use. We don’t want them to get hepatitis C or HIV or an overdose,” she said.

“The question is how to provide the services needed.”

One new aspect being promoted as part of harm reduction is paying people to return used syringes.

In Kamloops, two people are paying a nickel for each needle returned. Mema said she stands by her earlier comments the program is concerning for several reasons including the potential for accidental needle pokes, and the reality putting a monetary value on a used needle could lead to syringe theft.

© 2018 Kamloops This Week

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