Pubdate: Tue, 15 Mar 2016
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: David Reevely
Page: A1
Bookmark: (Supervised Injection Sites)


The Sandy Hill Community Health Centre is planning to consult the 
public this spring about adding a safe-injection site to its building 
at Rideau and Nelson streets, says the man who runs the Centre's 
drug-treatment programs.

"We're basically on the same path as Toronto," Rob Boyd said Monday 
morning after news that Toronto's board of health is going to 
consider three specific sites - two at community health centres and 
one run by Toronto's public health unit itself.

"We are planning on beginning our own consultations, probably in the 
month of April," said Boyd. "(They'll take place) over about six 
weeks, to allow as much access as possible."

Mayor Jim Watson has always been against such a site and doesn't care 
to discuss it, thank you.

"Mayor Watson's position on supervised injection sites has not 
changed. Mayor Watson prefers to see a continued focus on investment 
in treatment programs," his press secretary, Livia Belcea, wrote in 
an email on Monday. "Mayor Watson will be unavailable to comment 
further in the upcoming days."

That's unfortunate, but not the end of anything, said Boyd, who runs 
a needle exchange, a methadone and Suboxone clinic, and other 
services for people with HIV or hepatitis C. Adding a small 
safe-injection facility to a health centre that already does all 
these things would improve people's health and probably nobody 
outside the clinic would notice, he said.

"This is really core stuff with us," Boyd said.

Ottawa's public-health unit has studiously avoided taking a side on 
the usefulness of a safe-injection site, though its own work has 
shown that more than two-thirds of the city's injection-drug users 
have hepatitis C and about one in six has HIV.

These illnesses spread in blood, they're very expensive to treat, and 
they kill people. The rates of disease among drug users are markedly 
higher here than in Toronto. Ottawa also sees about 40 drug-overdose 
deaths a year (injection-drug deaths aren't all of them, but a large 
fraction), amid 1,000 paramedic calls for suspected overdoses.

Canada's one functioning facility, Insite, in Vancouver, is easy to 
dismiss if that's what you want to do.

Drug deals went on openly in the Downtown Eastside - notoriously 
"Canada's poorest postal code" - before Insite opened. Addicts 
cleaned their needles with puddle water and died of overdoses in 
alleys. A conservative mayor, Philip Owen, saw that the city's 
traditional approach was failing and came to support a safe-injection 
site as part of a different philosophy that saw reducing harm as 
approach that worked better than prohibition.

Since Insite opened, serious scholarly science has found that 
drug-related deaths have declined sharply in its neighbourhood, along 
with ugly nuisances such as litter and open drug use. People who 
shoot up at Insite are more likely than other addicts to sign up for 
detox and rehab.

They get treatment for other health problems that go along with 
addiction and living on the street, thanks to having contact with the 
health system through doctors, nurses and social workers they come to trust.

If you want to cast all that aside, you point out that although the 
peer-reviewed studies have appeared in world-class journals like the 
Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, the same researchers' 
names appear on them over and over again: Julio Montaner, Thomas 
Kerr, Mark Tyndall - people who called for Insite in the first place, 
in the main, and who really want to demonstrate that it's been a success.

Whatever the quality of their work (and it convinced the Supreme 
Court, which stopped a federal government attempt to close Insite in 
2011) they're looking at Canada's worst, poorest, most drug-damaged 

If Insite has been a success there, well, so what? Our fair city has 
no neighbourhoods like the Downtown Eastside, does it?

This makes for bad health-policy thinking, but it's good enough for politics.

Evidence from a second city, from squeaky-clean Toronto, would be 
harder to reject. It's a bigger city, sure, but it's in our province.

More Ottawans know it than know Vancouver. New names will be on the research.

Boyd thinks the evidence is already in, and new information from 
Toronto won't convince people who are determined to blow it off, so 
there's no point in waiting.

"I don't think it's a matter of waiting for more evidence," he said. 
"I think it's a matter of giving a local community local experience."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom