Pubdate: Thu, 19 Feb 2009
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2009 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Geoffrey So


Re: Adding up damage done by drugs, Feb. 13.

Columnist Kelly Egan asks whether Ottawa, a "city of symbols, tulips,
and all that is clean" can remain as such with a supervised injection
site. I am one who thinks so.

Having attended last week's community forum on "open drug use" in
Ottawa, I found that Ottawa Police Insp. Alain Bernard and Sgt. Uday
Jaswal saw a gloomy future for such a facility in our city. Their
primary arguments in opposing a supervised injection facility in
Ottawa were that Insite, Canada's first such site in Vancouver,
created a ghetto-ization of the neighbourhood surrounding it and that
Insite was not effective because it is only accommodating the needs of
five per cent of injection drug use in that area. The police did not
provide evidence to substantiate the claims beyond citing remarks made
between Vancouver police colleagues and personal observations.

Readers are reminded that Vancouver's downtown eastside suffered from
socioeconomic hardship, crime and drug problems long before the
creation of Insite. Health Canada's expert advisory committee on
supervised injection research, through a review of research, has
stated that ghetto-ization does not occur with these safer injection
facilities. This expert group also noted that there is substantive
evidence to show decreases in public injecting and discarded syringes
with Insite's opening.

Second, the reason Insite is currently only able to meet the needs of
five per cent of injection drug use in the downtown eastside is
because it is a small facility, opened as a pilot project that
operates at near capacity every day. Most clients come primarily to
use drugs, however, one-fifth of visits are for support services such
as counselling. An increase in sustained funding and expansion are
necessary to ensure it is able to continue its valuable work.

At the same forum, Dr. Lynne Leonard painted a different picture, one
by numbers from Ottawa-based research suggesting the potential
positive role of a supervised injection site in Ottawa, one that would
keep our city healthy, clean and safe for the public to enjoy.

Geoffrey So,


Data analyst.

HIV and Hepatitis C Prevention Research Team, University of Ottawa
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