Pubdate: Mon, 21 Mar 2016
Source: Metro (Calgary, CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 Metro Canada
Author: Jeremy Klaszus
Page: 27


Do Alberta cities need supervised injection sites similar to InSite 
in Vancouver - places where drug users can inject in clean, safer environments?

Calgary Liberal MLA David Swann doesn't hesitate for a second when asked.

"Absolutely," says Swann, who worked as a physician before being 
elected, and recently co-chaired a committee reviewing Alberta's 
addiction and mental health system.

"It's not treatment, it's not healing. It's not all that we want, but 
it's going to reduce the harm done to individuals and their contacts."

The debate over harm reduction will likely be returning to Calgary 
soon, as other cities are moving in this direction. Last week, 
Toronto's medical health officer called for supervised injection 
sites, citing myriad studies showing they reduce overdoses. Similar 
discussions are happening in Victoria, Montreal and Ottawa.

The Trudeau government reiterated last week that it wants to see more 
supervised injection sites across Canada.

It's a 180 from the approach of the Harper government. The 
Conservatives stubbornly opposed (and still oppose) supervised 
injection, despite the mountain of evidence showing its effectiveness.

"The scientific basis is just so strong that it can't be ignored," 
says Andrea Carter, team leader of prevention and engagement for HIV 
Community Link in Calgary. "Ultimately, harm reduction saves lives."

For that reason alone, it's worth pursuing. Supervised injection 
sites also put drug users into contact with health professionals - 
relationships that can lead to treatment.

Alberta Health Services used to distribute clean crack pipes through 
its Safeworks program in the city, as a way of preventing the oral 
spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.

But in 2011, after the program was scrutinized in the media and 
criticized by police, the province put the kibosh on it. The 
provincial Conservatives, like the feds, eyed certain harm reduction 
practices warily. But with the NDP in power, the landscape has 
shifted significantly, sparking optimism among those who work with 
vulnerable populations.

While supervised sites are being considered for Edmonton, Carter says 
agencies here haven't discussed it much.

Calgary has lower rates of HIV attributed to injection drug use than 
other parts of the province, particularly northern Alberta, she says.

But with high rates of fentanyl and crack cocaine use in Calgary, 
Carter suggests the city might benefit more from "safer consumption 
sites"- supervised places where people could consume drugs orally, for example.

"It might be about looking a little bit more broadly beyond just 
injection-drug use," says Carter.

As the discussion continues, I hope Calgary can move beyond the 
knee-jerk moralizing that has hampered progress on harm reduction in the past.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom