Pubdate: Fri, 19 Feb 2016
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Times Colonist
Author: Laura Kane
Page: A2
Bookmark: (Supervised Injection Sites)


Fentanyl overdoses spark push in Victoria and Vancouver for 
harm-reduction centres

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.

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

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," Germain said. "I think it was really clear 
under the previous government that something like this would not be approved."

The previous federal Conservative 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.

"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."

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 more overdose deaths 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.

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 standalone centres like Insite work in communities with a 
high concentration of drug users, but they are an expensive model.

"When you have a number of clinics that are already serving this 
population and they're already partly engaged in treatment, it's a 
lot more affordable to build it into an existing facility," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom