Pubdate: Fri, 07 Dec 2012
Source: Centretown News (CN ON)
Copyright: 2012 Centretown News
Author: Elizabeth Kiy


Researchers behind a four-year scientific study have recommended the 
establishment of two safe injection sites for Ottawa that they say 
would help drug users and reduce drug use in the capital.

Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi and Dr. Carol Strike presented the findings of the 
Toronto and Ottawa Supervised Consumption Assessment last week. The 
researchers participated in a panel discussion with representatives 
of the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa and the Drug Users Advocacy 
League, as part of Ottawa AIDS Awareness Week.

"A safe injection site is a legally sanctioned health facility where 
people can use illicit drugs under the supervision of nurses," said 
Strike. "We have not found them to increase drug use."

Strike said establishing such a site would improve the health of 
Ottawa drug users, reduce public drug use, and save money for both 
the health care system and city maintenance. Bayoumi and Strike said 
there are more than 90 such sites internationally.

Ottawa currently has the highest rate of new HIV infections among 
intravenous drug users in Ontario.

Insite, the only legal supervised injection site in North America, 
opened in Vancouver in 2003. It has been credited with preventing 35 
HIV infections each year, saving $8.7 million in health care costs. 
In 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled to exempt Insite from the 
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, a decision Bayoumi and Strike 
said sets a precedent for establishing a similar site in Ottawa.

"Over 50 per cent of people in Toronto and Ottawa support these 
sites," said Strike. "There's a core group in both cities who will 
never support safe injection sites, regardless of purpose for which 
it was designed or success."

Bayoumi and Strike recommend two safe injections sites for Ottawa and 
three for Toronto. They suggest multiple sites would dilute the 
potential negative effects on the neighbourhoods.

They also recommend these sites be integrated with existing 
organizations which have relationships with drug users.

Insite, which is not an integrated facility, has an annual budget of 
$2.9 million, which would be reduced without administration costs such as rent.

"A lot of people provided conditional support. They said they'd 
support the facility if they had proof it worked," said Bayoumi. "So 
we recommend specified objectives, such as number of users and how 
often, and rates of HIV, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B over time."

He said if the facility sets objectives, it can be easily evaluated 
to see if it works and what needs to be altered. At a community 
level, issues such as public litter, visible drug use and 
drug-related crimes around the site should also be evaluated.

Tarah Heighton, who works with the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa, 
supports safe injection sites because they acknowledge the reality of 

"The ugly truth about addiction is that it exists because we as a 
society have failed," she said.

Heighton, a former intravenous drug user who has been sober for one 
year, said the Ottawa community already has many services for drug 
users that have helped her, but it needs to do more.

"Harm reduction as a policy exists because it acknowledges that some 
people are not ready to change their ways and will continue to use 
drugs," she said.

Police in Toronto and Ottawa object to a safe injection site, but 
support other harm reduction programs, such as needle exchanges.

Bayoumi and Strike said their report was not supported by the health 
minister or Premier Dalton McGuinty.

"I think the way forward is not through their endorsement, but from 
the community level up rather than from the decision makers down," said Bayoumi.
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