Pubdate: Mon, 04 Apr 2016
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2016 The Edmonton Journal
Authors: Keith Gerein and Janet French
Page: A5


The idea of a supervised-injection site in Edmonton appears to have 
lukewarm support among city residents, a new poll has found.

One of the researchers assembling a proposal for medically supervised 
injection services in the city said Sunday she hopes support will 
grow once people find out more about how the service would work.

"We're helping people stay alive, and also helping them find an 
off-ramp from using injection drugs," said Elaine Hyshka, a 
University of Alberta public health researcher and core member of 
Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services Edmonton.

A Mainstreet Research survey, conducted exclusively for Postmedia, 
asked more than 1,000 Edmontonians about a range of local issues. 
Forty-four per cent of respondents said they approved of a safe 
injection site operating in Edmonton, and 30 per cent said they 
disapproved. The remaining 26 per cent were unsure.

"We're seeing strong support ... but a lot of people are still 
undecided about this kind of thing," said David Valentin, executive 
vice-president with Mainstreet. "There's a large chunk of the 
population who could flip either way depending on how the messaging goes."

However, Hyshka said the poll question doesn't reflect the model 
being proposed for Edmonton. Rather than one stand-alone injection 
site, like Vancouver's Insite, Hyshka and her colleagues envision 
nurses stationed at several existing organizations to offer medically 
supervised injection and other services.

Workers would also help connect clients with drug treatment programs 
and other health services, she said.

Broken down by gender, approval for a safe-injection site was 
slightly higher among female respondents (47 per cent) than males (41 
per cent). Support levels were similar among all age groups except 
for seniors, who were deadlocked on the issue with 41-per-cent 
approval and 40-per-cent disapproval.

The poll was conducted at the end of March, shortly after an Edmonton 
group announced it was working to establish the province's first 
supervised drug injection service. The idea of such sites is to 
reduce harm to drug users by providing clean needles, sterilized 
water and medical staff to monitor their condition.

Hyshka's research found some troubling trends among Edmonton's 
inner-city drug users.

Among those who inject drugs, four of five admitted to doing it in 
public, where they often lack clean water and supplies. As well, more 
than quarter of the drug users she interviewed said they had shared 
needles. Such behaviour can lead to skin abscesses and infections of 
hepatitis C and HIV.

Valentin said proponents of the service have an opportunity to see it 
proceed if they can get the city to move quickly.

But a long, drawn-out process will give opponents time to chip away 
Edmontonians' support, he said.

The land line and cellphone poll of 1,011 people was conducted March 
31. It has a margin of error of 3.08 percentage points, 19 times out 
of 20, though the margin increases when results are broken down by 
age or gender.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom