Pubdate: Fri, 19 Feb 2016
Source: Prince George Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Prince George Citizen
Author: Laura Kane
Page: 3
Bookmark: (Supervised Injection Sites)


VANCOUVER - British Columbia health officials are considering 
offering supervised-injection services in community health clinics, 
triggered by a new federal government and a spike in fentanyl overdoses.

Health authorities in Vancouver and Victoria have begun discussions 
about providing the services in clinics that already help people with 
addictions, for example, through clean needle programs.

"The situation here is getting worse," said Dr. Mark Lysyshyn of 
Vancouver Coastal Health in an interview Thursday. "We just see that 
offering supervised injection services is a more viable way to 
prevent some of the harm that's being caused right now."

The discussions mark a shift for harm reduction proponents who were 
long stymied by the previous Conservative government.

A rise in overdose deaths from the dangerous opioid fentanyl has 
added to the urgency, officials say.

Health authorities must apply for an exemption from federal drug laws 
in order to offer supervised-injection services. Lysyshyn said 
Vancouver Coastal Health is considering applying for a single 
exemption to cover multiple sites.

Community health centres are separate from hospitals and offer a 
range of services. It's not yet known which ones would offer 
supervised injection, but the authority plans to target those that 
already offer harm reduction to drug users, he said.

Lysyshyn said the authority was encouraged by Health Canada's recent 
approval of the Dr. Peter Centre, an HIV-AIDS clinic that has offered 
supervised injection along with other services in Vancouver's west 
end since 2002.

"We're sort of in a new world now," he said.

"There's been a lot of interest in Canada in harm reduction and a 
belief that it's been the right thing to do for people and that it 
saves lives, but we haven't been able to move on that in the past 10 years."

The B.C. Coroners Service has said overdose deaths are on the rise in 
the province and a growing portion are linked to fentanyl, a potent 
synthetic that is often cut with other drugs. Thirty per cent of 
overdose deaths involved fentanyl in 2015, up from five per cent in 2012.

Island Health spokeswoman Suzanne Germain said the authority has long 
considered supervised injection an important harm-reduction model, 
but only recently began active discussions with Victoria city 
officials and police about offering the service in community sites.

"The major factor for us has been the change in attitude at the 
federal government level. I think it was really clear under the 
previous government that something like this would not be approved."

When the Conservatives were in power, the federal government waged a 
court battle for years against Vancouver's only stand-alone 
supervised injection site, Insite, eventually losing at the Supreme 
Court of Canada. It also brought in legislation that made it more 
challenging to open new sites.

Health Canada spokesman Sean Upton said it would be premature to 
speculate on whether the Liberal government would repeal the legislation.

"The government of Canada is committed to following an evidence-based 
approach to assessing applications for supervised consumption sites 
and to assessing applications under the existing legal framework 
without undue hindrance or delay," he said.

Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall said Vancouver and 
Victoria need more supervised-injection services.

He said stand-alone centres like Insite work in communities with a 
high concentration of drug users, but they are an expensive model.
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