Health unit program to provide addicts with crack pipes
Controversy is brewing over a new program that would see the Middlesex-London Health Unit provide crack pipes to addicts.
The health unit's board voted unanimously to support the program on Thursday night, but not everyone is in favour of the move.
The board feels the program is necessary because the use of anything from rusty pop cans to broken bottles as a pipe - and sharing it - bring the risk of spreading serious infectious diseases.
Marcel Meyer, chair of the health board, admits he shared many concerns expressed in the wake of the board's unanimous decision to distribute crack pipes.
But after reading the report and listening to the concerns of staff at the health unit about the spread of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C he believes it's the right way to go.
"We would certainly like people that are on drugs to go to a rehab program to get better, but until they are ready to do that our only choice is to try to help them and keep them as safe as possible."
He adds that treating people who contract those diseases comes at a significant cost to the community.
"A person with HIV, a lifetime cost of looking after the individual is about $400,000. If a person gets Hepatitis C, to cure that person it's about $65,000."
The distribution of crack pipes has been taking place in Ottawa and Vancouver for more than a decade.
In Vancouver, they have even introduced crack pipe vending machines and teach safe use, including promoting the use of interchangeable mouth pieces.
London police Chief Brad Duncan supports measures to help protect addicts from infectious diseases, but he's worried about the connection from guns to organized crime to drugs.
"Whether we're talking street gang or traditional organized crime, motorcycle gangs, drugs figure prominently," he says.
He also has concerns about how addicts get money to support their drug habit, like property crimes and robberies.
Councillor Stephen Orser, who is a member of the health board, represents an area of the city that has struggled with addiction issues.
He doesn't support distributing pipes, "We have to get [drug addicts] help, we don't have to enable them."