|The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), a partner agency with Vancouver Coastal Health on its crack pipe distribution pilot that began early December in Vancouver, British Columbia, December 22, 2011. (CARMINE MARINELLI/QMI AGENCY)
VANCOUVER - Vancouver Coastal Health officials say they have already given out 95,700 free crack pipes as part of their pilot program to reduce disease rates in the city's drug-addled Downtown Eastside.
The program aims to reduce the spread of HIV, tuberculosis, pneumonia and Hepatitis C infections among drug users.
Over the past five months, that has meant approximately 9,500 pipes per month. The original program allotted 7,500 per month.
Demand has outstripped supply, and though a full report on the program’s effectiveness in reducing drug-related diseases won’t be released until January, health officials are optimistic.
"We've got preliminary results that indicate there are benefits," said Anna Marie D’Angelo, spokeswoman for Vancouver Coastal Health.
Originally designed as an eight-month pilot, the program was expected to cost $60,000. It has since been extended another five months, until January.
Candace Plattor used to be addicted to drugs and now works as a registered clinical counsellor to help others break the habit. She said she thinks the money going towards this program could be better spent.
“I believe in harm reduction. I think it's a good thing, but I would like to see an equal or greater amount of money allocated for treatment and prevention,” she said.
Jim O’Rourke, who runs VisionQuest — a drug rehabilitation and recovery centre that helps addicts quit cold turkey — said it’s no surprise demand has outstripped supply.
"That's because drug addicts are drug addicts and they look at it as a way to make money so they'll take multiple crack pipes, use one and then sell the rest," he said.