Pubdate: Sat, 03 Sep 2016
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: David Reevely
Page: A8


An unscientific survey by Ottawa's public-health unit over the summer
found two-thirds of us support new supervised drug-injection
facilities aimed at helping addicts survive overdoses.

The survey, an online questionnaire, was a consultation meant to gauge
the public's attitude toward such sites, which Ottawa Public Health
thinks would work best added to existing community health centres and
other agencies that operate needle exchanges and methadone clinics.
Anybody could go to the health unit's website and fill the survey out
- - so it's more like an Internet version of a public meeting than a

According to the health unit, more than one-quarter of the
participants identified themselves as either health practitioners or
people who work at agencies that help drug users. They also gave out
paper copies to people at existing drug clinics; five per cent of
respondents said they're current or former users of harm-reduction
services. The result is what the health unit calls a "a convenience
sample," people who were easy to reach.

Nevertheless, 66 per cent of the 2,263 people who took part said they
believe supervised injection sites would be beneficial in Ottawa,
against 27 per cent who oppose the idea. The most support came from
the wards where injection sites would be likeliest to open - Somerset,
Rideau-Vanier, Capital, River and Kitchissippi, where support ranged
from 77 to 90 per cent.

The survey even found more support than opposition (based on just a
few dozen participants) in suburban and rural wards like West
Carleton-March, Kanata South and Cumberland. Only in Barrhaven and
Gloucester-South Nepean were outright majorities of respondents opposed.

More than half of respondents have concerns, though, mostly focused on
the idea that safe injection sites will attract more drug users and
dealers, which will be bad for safety and for property values. Keep
informing residents what's going on and listen hard when they
complain, respondents suggested.

The survey is part of the health unit's efforts to work out how best
to open supervised injection sites in Ottawa.

In June, on advice from the city's top public-health doctor Isra Levy,
the board of health voted in favour of supervised injection sites in
principle, though they'd actually be operated by those outside
agencies that already offer harm reduction services. That's different
from the best-known injection site in Canada, Vancouver's InSite,
which opened as a special-purpose facility in 2003.

The idea is that with nurses and other health workers around,
needle-drug users would be less likely to die of overdoses in clean
clinics than in alleys and public washrooms, and more apt to ask for
help with their addictions when they want it.
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