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Premier: BC not ignoring gay meth users

Responding to a report that gay men are among the highest risk groups for crystal meth use in Vancouver, Premier Gordon Campbell insisted his government is not ignoring the gay community in its effort to combat rising meth use in the city.

“There’s a number of programs that I know are aimed at the gay community,” he told Xtra West May 28. “We’re trying to deal with health for everybody. We’re going to continue to work at that, and I would encourage–if the gay community feels there are shortcomings and gaps–they should let the Minister of Health know.

“We want to reach into the adult community and the gay and the straight communities to make sure that they understand what the dangers of meth are,” Campbell continued. “We’re glad to work with any community group that wants to make sure that people understand how really devastating that drug is.”

To date, the BC government’s funding for crystal meth programs has focused primarily on youth. In March, it announced $8 million for programs specifically dedicated to young users.

No such spending has been targeted to the gay community.

Currently, Three Bridges Community Health Centre offers gay and lesbian-specific days for addictions and primary care, and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) offers indirect funding for some services for gay substance abusers.

Gayway also receives funding through a $1.7 million grant VCH gives to AIDS Vancouver, which is also used to fund Boys R Us, a support group for male prostitutes, and Taking It Deep, a support group for gay substance abusers.

Although none of these programs deal with meth specifically, Al Zwiers, who coordinates Taking It Deep, maintains that the group can be helpful to meth users too. “The underlying issues of substance abuse, whether it’s crystal meth or alcohol or pot, are very much the same,” he says.

Asked what the government is doing specifically for adult gay men using meth, Sarah Plank, a spokesperson for the BC Ministry of Health, points to services available to adults in general. “Of just over 1,000 addiction-management beds in the province, 880 are for adults,” she says.