Pubdate: Mon, 04 Jul 2016
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Jenny Yuen
Page: 8


Vancouver experts weigh in

While the Board of Health will deal Monday with a call to open three
safe injection sites, Vancouver is in the midst of grappling with the
introduction of five such projects to combat the city's fentanyl
overdose crisis. The Vancouver Coastal Health department and the
Vancouver Police Union weigh in on the pros and cons.


Vancouver Police Union President

Did crime go up when Insite, Vancouver's first supervised injection
site, opened in 2003?

"When (Insite) was first established, we allocated significant
resources to the area and it's typically been an area where there's a
tremendous amount of injection drug use. People are committing all
manner of crimes to obtain property to buy the drugs. There's a lot of
property crime and other crime."

Many health advocates laud safe injection sites as a way to make
communities safer. What is your take?

"I think harm reduction should be a piece of an overall strategy. I
think if you really want to get around issues around injection drug
use you should be focusing on education, treatment, prevention, just
like alcohol and tobacco. I don't know why we take a different
approach when it comes to equally or more harmful substances. The
benefits are largely overstated and the harm is minimized."

Have any advice for Toronto with safe injection sites?

"You need to make sure you don't centralize all the services available
into one neighbourhood. That's a mistake. I think you need to have the
right resources that go along with managing addiction. Why are we
creating safe injection sites but essentially saying to addicts, 'You
have to find your own way to buy the drug' - so they're committing
crimes. If it's really about reducing the harm, let's create some
rules around it ... why aren't we providing them the drugs in the
facilities, so then we can control the quality and reduce the harm for
the rest of the community, while getting those engaged into treatment?"


Vancouver's Medical Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health

Tell us about Insite. "We opened our first one in 2003, Insite, a
supervised injection site open to the public and it's been extensively
evaluated. It definitely prevents overdose deaths, no one has ever
died of an overdose at Insite, and engages people into addiction treatment."

What are the benefits of safe injection sites?

"It's had a lot of benefits in what you would call 'community order' -
there has been less crime in the area, less needles, less injection.
We had a real epidemic of HIV among the drug-using community in that
area and those rates have really plummeted."

Advice for Toronto as we look into setting up similar

"You try to offer them at sites where you're already offering services
to those populations and you can reassure the community there won't be
a big change to the type of people who are coming to that building or
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