Pubdate: Sun, 10 Jul 2016
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Nick Eagland
Page: 3


Svante Myrick aims to bring Vancouver's pioneering programs back to
his small city in upstate New York

Svante Myrick has led a lifelong battle against the devastation caused
by illicit drugs.

He spent much of his childhood homeless while his father, a crack
cocaine user, walked in and out of his world through "a sort of
revolving door of jail and rehab," he said.

Now Myrick, 29, the youngest and the first black mayor of Ithaca,
N.Y., is fighting ideology and policy to make his city the first in
the U.S. to be home to a legal supervised-injection facility (SIF) for
heroin users.

Since pitching the idea in February, he's been blasted by critics of 
harm reduction. But his resolve only grew stronger during a trip last 
week to Vancouver, which is home to North America's only SIFs: Insite 
and the Dr. Peter Centre.

After meeting with police, harm-reductionists, shelter staff and drug
users, Myrick left convinced Ithaca will get an SIF within the next
two years.

Myrick was elected mayor in 2011 after graduating from the Ivy League
Cornell University two years earlier. He said research shows long-term
chronic drug users in Ithaca spend up to 20 hours each day seeking
drugs, turning to prostitution, burglary and robbery to feed their
addictions. Meanwhile, fentanyl and prescription opioids are killing
them indiscriminately.

Two years ago, the city formed a 45-person committee tasked with
designing a new, local approach to the problem. In February, it came
forward with 25 recommendations and unveiled a plan that included
implementing an SIF - which are proven to reduce overdoses, prevent
the spread of disease and infection, connect users with health and
social services and save taxpayers' money.

"Those recommendations tracked along the Four Pillars that Vancouver
instituted 15 or more years ago," said Myrick, referring to a drug
strategy Vancouver council adopted in 2001 that focuses on prevention,
treatment, policing and harm reduction. To see the strategy in action,
the non-profit Drug Policy Alliance sent Myrick and Ithaca's police
chief to Vancouver.

"People really seem to be grateful to Insite, in particular, for
giving them hope that they can survive, that they can outlive and
outlast their addiction," Myrick said.

"That, right now, is something that people don't have in the States.
People don't have a whole lot of hope, especially long-term, chronic
drug users."

Asked if he thinks his plan to bring the first SIF to the U.S. will
work, Myrick said: "I honestly have no idea. I mean, I've gotten more
anger and pushback then I ever expected."

Indeed, Myrick's plan has been met with scathing criticism from
pundits on national nighttime news broadcasts, including a demand for
a recall election on Fox News.

"On the other hand, from all corners - corners I never expected -
people have been flocking to the idea," Myrick said.

He believes Ithaca is fit to lead the country with an SIF because of
its "long history of being on the leading edge of particularly
progressive movements" and its highly educated populace of 30,000.

"I think that's why the city's really taken to this idea and why we'll
likely be the first in the United States to open a
supervised-injection facility," he said. While Insite was the focus of
Myrick's visit, he also spent time with Vancouver police and visiting
shelters and the Drug Users Resource Centre.

At the Providence Crosstown Clinic, he learned about Vancouver's
unique treatments. Myrick said he was "amazed" by the clinic's successes.

Crosstown is the only clinic in North America offering medical-grade
heroin and hydromorphone to a severely affected group of heroin users
in a supervised setting. Currently, 150 patients are being treated.

Evidence shows the treatments engage opioid users, retain them into
care, decrease their illegal activity and improve their psychological
and physical health.

Dr. Scott MacDonald, team lead at the Crosstown clinic, said Ithaca
struggles with the same opioid-use disorders ravaging British
Columbians and North Americans in general.

MacDonald recently gave testimony on Crosstown's work to the U.S.
Senate in Washington after being invited by its most powerful
committee, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

"This is not a partisan issue," MacDonald said. "There's concern and
desire to look at solutions across the political spectrum."

MacDonald said he's "certainly optimistic" Myrick will achieve his
goal of setting up an SIF and perhaps, someday, a clinic like
Crosstown in Ithaca.

"The regulations need to be changed in Washington but the senators,
when I spoke to them ... were very attentive," MacDonald said.

Myrick found the success stories and evidence presented to him at
Crosstown compelling.

"I was amazed, honestly," Myrick said. "It sounds counterintuitive -
more than counterintuitive, it seems wrong.

"But seeing it in action, I was able to see just how right it is."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt