Pubdate: Thu, 29 Dec 2016
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The London Free Press
Author: Randy Richmond
Page: A1


Heavy with needle users, London could move a step closer in February to a
supervised injection site for drug-addicted residents amid renewed debate
about the idea.

The results of a feasibility study that surveyed 200 current and former
needle users, as well as police, politicians, and social service and
health agency representatives, is to be released in early February,
Christopher Mackie, the Middlesex-London medical officer of health, said

That study won't suggest a location or timeline to establish a site, but
one area Conservative MP already is raising the alarm about the

Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Karen Vecchio served notice recently she's
worried about the Liberal government's new drug strategy, which will make
it easier for municipalities to open injection sites.

"Instead of making it easier for drug addicts to consume drugs, the
Liberal government should support treatment and recovery programs to get
addicts off drugs, and enact heavy mandatory minimum sentences to crack
down on drug traffickers," Vecchio said in a statement this month.

Vecchio, the Opposition critic on Parliament Hill for families, children
and social development, couldn't be reached for further comment this week.

"Dangerous and addictive drugs tear families apart, promote criminal
behaviour and destroy lives," Vecchio said in her statement. Mackie said
he has no argument with that, but added there's evidence injection sites
reduce crime and ease the harm done to addicts.

"Supervised injection sites don't make it easier to get drugs. They make
it easier to take drugs safely," he said.

It's naive to think it's not already easy to find illegal drugs in London,
Mackie added: "It is easier for high school students to get marijuana than

A community is safer when drug users inject in a supervised site, not a
public place, receive medical help and can dispose of needles in bins
rather than on the sides of streets or in parks, he said.

London was chosen for one of two injection site feasibility studies - the
other is in Thunder Bay - by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, in part
because of this city's high rate of needle use.

The study will assess willingness of people to use a safe injection site
and to get feedback from the community.

In London, about 6,000 people use the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection's
needle exchange, with the 2.5 million needles handed out in 2014 making it
the second-largest program of its kind in Canada behind Vancouver.

Local HIV and hepatitis C rates are rising as provincial rates drop,
health officials say.

London struggles with opioid and crystal meth addictions, while across
Canada, the growing opioid crisis and accompanying overdose deaths have
fuelled the call for more supervised injection sites.

The former Conservative government in Ottawa introduced the Respect For
Communities Act in 2015, which required 26 criteria to be met before a
safe injection site could be considered. Only two sites have been approved
in Canada, both in Vancouver, and critics say the criteria were too

In December, the new Liberal government introduced Bill C-37 to amend the
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and replace 26 criteria with five to
allow the opening of more safe injection sites.
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