Several speak in favour of cancelled harm-reduction plan

A former crack-addicted street youth was one of several people who spoke in support of restoring Ottawa’s recently cancelled pipe program at a public forum last night.


“I think that the community members’ well being is more important than anything … $8,000 is not a lot of money compared to the cost to treating hepatitis C,” said Krista Driscoll.


The harm-reduction program is also linked to treatment, she said, adding, “When users go to collect pipes, they get access to information. I feel the program should be reinstated immediately. This should be our priority.”


Not everyone’s been in Driscoll’s shoes, but dozens gathered at city hall for the forum hosted by the AIDS Committee of Ottawa.


Committee executive director Kathleen Cummings said she hoped to generate discussion among community groups and the public about how a contingency plan to replace the cancelled crack pipe program can be put in place.

She hopes to announce a plan in coming weeks, but Cummings also wants to see an increased understanding of how the program saves lives.

“We’re in the middle of exploring partnerships and options and funding,” Cummings said.

The distribution of crack pipes does not encourage people to smoke crack, claimed Dr. Lynne Leonard, of the University of Ottawa’s HIV Prevention Research Team. But the program still had flaws, she said.

The study did show that, after one year of operation, the program didn’t provide enough mouthpieces — key to reducing diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.

The harm reduction program protects health-care costs, said Wendy Muckle, executive director of the Inner City Health Project.

“Most will stop using drugs at some point in their lives and we want to make sure they’re as healthy as possible,” Muckle said.

some problems

  • The program didn’t provide pipes to users under 18, but studies showed that up to 32 per cent of users started smoking crack when they were younger than 18, said Dr. Lynne Leonard, of the University of Ottawa’s HIV Prevention Research Team.