Pubdate: Fri, 01 Sep 2006
Source: Esquimalt News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Esquimalt News
Author: Brennan Clarke
Bookmark: (Safe Injecting Rooms)


With the future of Vancouver's safe injection site pilot project 
hanging by a thread, officials on Vancouver Island vow to forge ahead 
with an application for a similar experiment in Victoria.

The Vancouver facility, InSite, will be forced to close its doors 
Sept. 12 if Health Canada declines to renew a three-year legal 
exemption that paved the way for supervised injection drug use.

The closure of InSite could in turn cast doubt upon a $300,000 
provincially funded study that local officials plan to submit next 
spring with their application for a safe injection site pilot project 
in Victoria, AIDS Vancouver Island spokesman Erik Ages said.

"I don't think what happens in Vancouver is going to affect the study 
that's being done in Victoria," he said.

Last week, the Vancouver Province, quoting anonymous sources with the 
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, reported that Health Canada has 
decided to extend Insite's exemption from Section 56 of the Canada 
Health Act, which prohibits the use of illegal drugs in health-care facilities.

However, Health Canada officials say that no decision has been made.

"The department has not committed to an extension," Health Canada 
spokesperson Carol Saindon said last week, adding that other pilot 
projects will have to wait until the InSite experiment has been fully assessed.

"The government of Canada will not consider other similar projects 
until the assessment of the research resulting from the existing 
program in Vancouver has been completed."

Staff with the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority said Monday that 
research has yet to prove conclusively that InSite has stopped the 
spread of blood-borne disease such as AIDS and hepatitis, the 
facility's primary goal.

However, data gathered so far indicates a decline in the number of 
overdoses and an increase in the number of addicts injecting drugs in 
a safe, hygienic setting.

Two former Vancouver mayors - ex B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt and 
recently appointed Senator Larry Campbell gathered alongside current 
Mayor Sam Sullivan to show their support for extending InSite's life.

Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe said all he's heard so far are rumours.

"My understanding is there are rumours out there that they will 
approve a three-year exemption, but we can't bank on it until we hear 
it from the minister's mouth," Lowe said.

Victoria's safe injection site study, being carried out by the UVic 
Centre for Addictions Research, will look at evidence from safe 
injection sites currently operating in 12 countries around the world, 
gather input from members of Victoria's IV drug community and 
consider existing research on the subject.

Lowe said the study should be completed in the spring of 2007.
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