Support essential HR services in 900-block Pandora

We are asking for your help in response to an article published in the Times Colonist Nov 10th (http://www.timescolonist.com/health/Needles+distributed+zone/3805330/sto...).

In the article, the Victoria Police Department draw attention to the fact that the Pandora Pharmacy has been successfully distributing clean harm reduction supplies to people who use drugs. This is in light of the fact that VIHA-funded organizations that deliver needle exchange services continue to abide by an unwritten directive often referred to as the 'no go zone' due to pressure from the Health Authority and the Victoria Police. This means that mobile needle exchange has been restricted from a 2-block radius around St. Andrew's School (they are big blocks!). This is in spite of the fact that at a public meeting at City Hall on May 20 of this year, VIHA's Medical Health Officer, Dr. Murray Fyfe, denied that the zone exists.

Behind closed doors, the VPD has admitted that there has been no increase in 'public disorder' and no increased problems with discarded needles over the past number of months. Now that they've learned about the Pandora Pharmacy distributing safer drug use supplies, they've turned to mainstream media to perpetuate the myths that a) needle exchange services cause drug use and b) needle exchange services cause public disorder. Both are completely unfounded by international and local research. What is real are the impacts of stigma and discrimination on the ability of people who use drugs to access life-saving health care.

WE URGE YOU TO EXPRESS YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE PANDORA PHARMACY- (250) 385-3784. Please call and let them know that you appreciate their efforts to help ensure that people who use drugs have the ability to keep themselves and their friends safer. It is clear that the pharmacy is committed to reducing the risk environment that has been created on our downtown streets by a lack of coordinated leadership to put health care evidence into action. Needle exchange services are not illegal!! Harm reduction saves lives!!

PLEASE WRITE letters to the Times Colonist, Mayor and Council, VIHA Public Health and Executive and Ministry of Health Services to express your support for harm reduction services when and where they are needed, without police harassment!

LETTERS TO THE TC: send to letters@tc.canwest.com -- To be considered for publication, letters to the editor must include the writer's full name, address and daytime phone number. Letters should be no more than 250 words.

MAYOR AND COUNCIL: mayor@victoria.ca, councillors@victoria.ca

VIHA:
Executive Director, Public Health
Allison Cutler

Medical Health Officer,
Dr. Murray Fyfe

250.519.3406
Suite 430 - 1900 Richmond Avenue,
Victoria, B.C. V8R 4R2
Fax: 250.519.3441

MINISTRY OF HEALTH SERVICES:
MINISTRY OF HEALTH SERVICES
1515 BLANSHARD STREET
VICTORIA BC V8W 3C8
250 952-1742

Minister: Honourable Kevin Falcon

John Dyble, Deputy Minister
Phone: 250 952-1911
Fax: 250 952-1909