Pubdate: Tue, 03 Jan 2006
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Times Colonist
Author: Rob Shaw


Stanwick's Analysis Of Cost And Feasibility To Go Before VIHA Board In March

Whether Victoria will become home to a safe injection site for drug 
addicts could be decided as early as March, after a key report on 
medical benefits and costs is finished and delivered to the Vancouver 
Island Health Authority board.

Dr. Richard Stanwick, Vancouver Island's chief medical health 
officer, started working on the report, which he is a calling a 
business plan, last month. It will provide the first detailed look at 
the cost and feasibility of a safe injection site, and should be 
ready in March, he said.

"This is the document that really cements the rationale for moving 
forward," said Stanwick. "This will hopefully raise the level of 
understanding and, quite candidly, improve the debate instead of it 
being purely on a conceptual level."

The VIHA board will review the business plan, and then decide the 
next step, said chairman Jac Kreut.

If the board decides to go ahead with a safe injection site, it will 
need approval from the provincial and federal governments. The 
question of location would be decided by Victoria's city council.

Another issue the VIHA board faces is whether the health authority 
should form a partnership with private companies, as in such 
countries as Germany, or go it alone, as in Vancouver, Stanwick said.

The plan will also consider whether there should be one large site or 
smaller sites in multiple locations.

Supporters of safe injection sites say such facilities allow drug 
addicts to inject their drugs in a clean, safe environment, 
supervised by medical staff. Without such a site, many addicts use 
puddle water and dirty needles. The result is the spread of disease 
and development of infections that are resistant to treatment.

Vancouver is the only city in North America to have safe injection 
sites, which are in their second year of a three-year federal government trial.

Research by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS found that 
Vancouver's two sites reduced the spread of disease among drug 
addicts. But Vancouver police say drug use on the streets is still rampant.

Opponents of drug injection sites, including Conservative Leader 
Stephen Harper, say the use of illicit drugs shouldn't be condoned, 
and taxpayers' money shouldn't be spent on helping people to take 
such drugs. Others have worried about the impact a site might have on 
a neighbourhood.

While campaigning for re-election in the fall, Victoria Mayor Alan 
Lowe promised to create a local safe injection site in the new year.

Stanwick said his plan will attempt to answer questions from groups 
such as the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. Bruce Carter, 
chamber CEO, said his organization has asked about economic impact, 
quality of life for citizens and future taxation levels. "Both VIHA 
and the city have been very open in this process and a lot of 
discussion has taken place," said Carter, adding that Stanwick's 
business case will provide even more answers.
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