Pubdate: Mon, 14 Mar 2016
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Nicole Thompson
Page: A8


Toronto is joining the growing list of Canadian cities - including 
Ottawa and Montreal - that plan to set up safe-injection sites.

Safe-injection sites provide a place for people to take illicitly 
obtained drugs, while supervised by nurses or other health care staff 
in order to prevent overdoses. They typically also provide sterile 
injection equipment.

As it stands, there are more than 90 safe-injection sites worldwide, 
but only two legal sites in Canada, both in Vancouver. Local media 
reports say Toronto's top health official is planning on following 
suit, opening "multiple" facilities, also called supervised-injection 
or supervised-consumption sites.

Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, is scheduled 
to host an event Monday, where he'll promote a board of health report 
on supervised injection services. The report will recommend setting 
up safe-injection services at some pre-existing health care facilities.

The latest available data from 2013 shows Toronto's rate of fatal 
overdoses is increasing. That year it set a record of 206 deaths.

And a growing body of research suggests that these sites have other 
social and health benefits.

Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi, a downtown Toronto hospital physician and expert 
in services for drug users, said the benefits include fewer HIV and 
hepatitis C infections, because the provided needles would be unused. 
Public safety and social benefits include less public litter of 
needles, and "potentially less crime, because people inject indoors 
instead of on the street."

Establishing supervised-injection sites isn't a simple process. Due 
to legislation introduced last year, cities that wish to introduce 
those services need express permission from the federal health minister.

Joe Cressy, a city councillor and chair of the city's drug strategy 
implementation panel, said he doesn't think that will be a problem.

"The new federal government has publicly stated over and over and 
over again that they support supervised injection services as a form 
of evidence-based health policy," he said. "The previous Conservative 
government did not support these measures, but the new federal 
government does. And that's a good thing."
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