Pubdate: Fri, 18 Mar 2016
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The Toronto Star
Author: Jennifer Pagliaro
Page: GT1


More than 50 community leaders say supervised injection services are 
needed in Toronto to save lives and are urging communities to focus 
on facts over fear.

"I call on all Torontonians to learn more about this issue. If you 
learn about it, I believe you'll support it," said former mayor 
Barbara Hall, who was joined at a city hall news conference by 
predecessors John Sewell and David Crombie along with a dozen other 
leading health officials, community and religious leaders.

"These are critical services that are needed in our city. We have the 
capacity to act to save the lives of our neighbours. We're not 
talking about Martians or zombies. We're talking about our children 
or our grandchildren, our brothers and our sisters, our neighbours 
and our co-workers."

On Monday, the city's medical officer of health, Dr. David McKeown, 
released a report calling for the implementation of three supervised 
injection sites within existing community health services on Queen 
St. W., next to Yonge-Dundas Square and in Leslieville.

Supervised injection services, which currently only exist in Canada 
at two sites in Vancouver, allow drug users to bring in their own 
illicit drugs to inject at a booth while supervised by a nurse.

Users are then moved to a "chill-out" room to be monitored for 
overdose or other issues before leaving.

The proposed sites must apply for exemption from Ottawa to operate 
under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. As part of that 
process, the city will undertake community consultation that includes 
residents, businesses and police.

Research has found that supervised injection sites help reduce 
overdose deaths, prevent the spread of infections like HIV and 
hepatitis C, and reduce the number of discarded needles in public spaces.

Dr. Howard Ovens, chief of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai 
Hospital, said the medical community supports creating such sites for 
those reasons and because they would cause fewer emergency room 
visits and lessen the burden on public health and emergency costs.

"Supervised injection services do not enable or in any way encourage 
drug use," he said. "Rather, they send a clear signal that injecting 
drugs is such a dangerous thing to do we want to give you a clean, 
safe place to do it with a health-care professional nearby."

He said the sites would also allow staff to build rapport with drug 
users in the hopes of helping them seek treatment when they're ready.

"This is a strategy that is proven to help the vulnerable population 
who desperately needs our help, but it also benefits the 
neighbourhood around them - taxpayers and society as a whole."

Thursday's news conference was organized by Councillor Joe Cressy, 
who chairs the Toronto Drug Strategy Implementation Panel and has 
strongly backed the medical officer of health's plan.

A statement in support of supervised injection released by his office 
is signed by five former mayors, a former RCMP commissioner, former 
attorney general and chief justice of Ontario Roy McMurtry and Dr. 
Paul Garfinkel, the founding CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

This is the second time this term that notable Torontonians have 
gathered on the second floor of city hall to call for action on a 
major policy issue.

In June, a similar group gathered in the same spot to call for an end 
to the police practice of carding.

Absent from both news conferences was Mayor John Tory, who called for 
an end to carding in the wake of that earlier news conference. Tory 
has stopped short of endorsing supervised injection services, saying 
there are legitimate concerns but urging a "rational" debate.

McKeown's report will first be discussed at the Board of Health on March 21.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom