A client prepares to shoot up at the Insite supervised injection site in Vancouver. Fraser Health has no immediate plans to pursue such a site but wants to bring clean needle exchanges to Abbotsford.

A client prepares to shoot up at the Insite supervised injection site in Vancouver. Fraser Health has no immediate plans to pursue such a site but wants to bring clean needle exchanges to Abbotsford.

Abbotsford overdoses cited in call for needle reform

Fraser Health would like to double number of clean syringes it hands out to addicts across the region

Abbotsford’s high rate of drug overdose hospitalizations should prompt the city to drop its ban on needle exchanges, say Fraser Health officials.

About 29 residents a year are admitted due to overdoses, resulting in a hospitalization rate above that of Surrey, Burnaby or the regional average.

“To say the drug problem hasn’t reached out into the Valley, I don’t think you can say that based on these statistics,” said David Portesi, Fraser Health’s director of health promotion and prevention.

The health authority estimates there are 280 to 470 injection drug users in Abbotsford, but cautions that may be low based on the city’s high rates of Hepatitis C, drug overdose fatalities and drug crime offences.

Portesi will meet Abbotsford officials in May in hopes of persuading them to rescind a 2005 bylaw against harm reduction services that some politicians say promote drug use.

“It’s our belief that the lack of harm reduction services play a part in those elevated rates,” he said.

Abbotsford is the only city in the region that blocks efforts to prevent the spread of disease among injection drug users, although Portesi doubts the Abbotsford bylaw is even legal.

“That would be a local municipality interfering with the provision of a medical service by the health authority,” he said.

“That said, we want to move forward in partnership with Abbotsford.”

Partner agencies serving New Westminster/Burnaby, Surrey and Chilliwack already distribute 400,000 clean needles a year to addicts in the region, but Portesi says that number is too low given the health region’s population.

“We’d like to double that to around 800,000 by 2014,” he said, adding an extension of service to Abbotsford would help.

A combination of mobile vans and fixed exchange sites are used to distribute needles, as well as rubber tubes that serve as protective mouthpieces for crack pipe users.

Asked if Fraser Health might try to cut overdose deaths by launching a supervised injection site, like Vancouver’s Insite clinic, Portesi said it’s a longer term possibility but not an immediate priority.

“We would move forward with the utmost care in working with the municipalities in instituting something like that,” he stressed.

If Fraser Health succeeds in plugging its big harm reduction gap in Abbotsford, Portesi then plans to try to get clean needles distributed in area prisons to slow the transmission of HIV, Hepatitis C and other blood or bacterial infections there.

“Many of the inmates who are released often do settle in the Fraser East region,” he added.

In Surrey, needle exchange efforts focus on the Whalley area, but clients also come from Newton and Guildford.

New Westminster-based workers operate in Burnaby and the Tri-Cities as well, while counterparts in Chilliwack sometimes roam up the Valley as far as Boston Bar.

Between 2006 and 2010, New Westminster had the highest average number of per capita admissions to hospital for drug overdoses – 23.6 per 100,000 population – compared to 21.9 for Abbotsford, 17.3 for Surrey and 11.4 for Burnaby. The Fraser Health average was 16.9.

Death rates from overdoses in Abbotsford were 8.08 per 100,000 over a similar five-year period, compared to 9.01 in Surrey, 11.07 in New Westminster, 11.79 in Vancouver and 4.89 in Burnaby.

The Hepatitis C infection rate in Abbotsford in 2010 was 64.4 cases per 100,000, compared to a B.C. average of 54.9 and a national average of 33.7.

Just Posted

Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema, a member of the Canadian national women’s soccer squad.
Another scoreless draw for Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema and Canadian national women’s soccer squad

Canada played Brazil to a 0-0 tie days after doing the same in a friendly against the Czech Republic

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

Chilliwack firefighters watch as an O’Connor Towing operator removes a stolen Volkswagen station wagon from the Fraser River off Cannor Road in west Chilliwack on June 13, 2021. (William Snow photo)
PHOTOS: Stolen vehicle dumped in Fraser River in Chilliwack Sunday

Search and Rescue determined there was no one inside the car found upside down off Cannor Road

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Most Read