News » Whistler

Needle exchange will be in operation soon



A new co-ordinator has been hired to run the Whistler and Pemberton needle exchanges.

Marilyn McIvor, nursing leader with Coast Garibaldi Health, is now hoping the programs can be up and running within a month.

They will follow in the footsteps of the Squamish Needle Exchange, which has been running successfully for about four months.

"We'll be pulling together a community-based steering committee made up of community members and stakeholders to support and guide the project," McIvor said.

RCMP, emergency nurses, local pharmacists, and drug and alcohol councillors will be among the members of the steering committee.

They will be addressing issues like where to have the exchange and how often.

McIvor said they are also very interested in getting input from the injection drug users.

The Squamish Needle Exchange began on Jan. 8, 2002.

The number of users coming in to exchange dirty needles for clean needles is still relatively low but over the past four months a steady client base has developed.

It is open twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. out of Coast Garibaldi Health at 1140 Hunter Place in Squamish.

Needle Exchanges have sprung up in the corridor and the province to address the spread of communicable diseases through sharing needles.

Some of the diseases, which are of prime concern for the health care workers, are Hepatitis C or B and HIV.

Hepatitis C has been called an epidemic in some parts of the corridor.

Current trends show that users are injecting cocaine more often than heroin. The high from cocaine does not last as long as the high from heroin and users need to re-inject after roughly 20 minutes.

"You go through a whole lot more needles," said McIvor.

For further information or questions or comments on the needle exchange please contact Marilyn McIvor at 604-932-3202.

The needle exchange co-ordinator in Squamish is Glen and he can be reached on his cell phone at 604-892-4364. The Whistler and Pemberton co-ordinator is Bill and he will be getting a cell phone shortly.