Pubdate: Wed, 18 Jan 2017
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2017 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Ashley Martin
Page: A4


Wide discussion needed on subject, say those in addictions field

Reginans are split on support of a safe injection site in the city,
but it is unlikely such a service will be implemented anytime soon.

According to a Mainstreet/Postmedia poll released today, 41 per cent
of respondents disapprove of a safe injection site being opened or
operated in Regina, 39 per cent say they approve, and 20 per cent
aren't sure.

The fentanyl-themed poll was conducted two weeks ago and surveyed 628
Regina residents with a margin of error of 3.91 per cent 19 times out
of 20.

"When it comes to a safe injection site in Regina, there is no
consensus," said Mainstreet Research president Quito Maggi.

But at this point, the public opinion doesn't really

Neither the Health Ministry nor the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region is
considering implementing safe injection sites - safe spaces staffed by
medical and addictions specialists to support addicts.

When it comes to the fentanyl overdoses burdening health systems in
Canada's bigger cities, "The experience in Saskatchewan is not
reflective of what is being experienced in other jurisdictions,"
according to a Health Ministry statement.

Since a 2008 provincial review of Saskatchewan's needle exchange
programs, "a lot of those circumstances have changed," said Tyler Gray
of Carmichael Outreach, which runs addictions programming and houses
one of RQHR's needle exchange programs.

"I think as a bare minimum, a revisiting of whether or not it's a
needed service is something that is worth doing at a community level,"
said Gray. "Let's reopen that conversation."

Gabriela Novotna, an assistant professor of social work at the
University of Regina, agreed.

"I would suggest that there needs to be discussion and consultation
with local health authorities, but also those who lead these services,
plus researchers, police, and the public," said Novotna, who
researches substance abuse. "It's not just for those who are needing
these services; it's for the community."

And in the latter case, 24 per cent of Reginans "strongly disapprove"
of safe injection sites in the city. In Saskatoon, 41 per cent of
people disapprove (27 per cent "strongly").

"Those who are against it are probably thinking that the (sites) … can
encourage or increase drug use, or initiate new users," said Novotna.

She says there is no evidence of that happening since safe injection
sites originated in Europe in the late 1980s, and Vancouver's opened
in 2003.

"I cannot say why that fear is still there in society.

"It's probably the matter of moral judgment, what we should do for
people who use drugs. Or it's probably the matter of opinion of the
government that are currently in power."

"Addiction is an illness that needs to be treated, and we treat it as
a moral failing," said Gray, who has "never, ever, ever" had a
conversation with someone who loves being an addict.

He said a shift in public discourse is needed, as well as a change in
approach to treatment: Many social supports are only accessible if
people are already clean and sober.

Until then, "I think the conversation will still largely focus around
whether we would like to see (safe injection sites) in the community,"
said Gray.

"There is a growing drug issue in the city with respect to crystal
meth," said Mayor Michael Fougere. But he has not heard any discussion
of opening a safe injection site by front line workers, the Regina
Police Service or regular citizens.

Further, he said he has not heard from people concerned about rising
drug use in the city - though, according to the poll, 36 per cent of
Reginans are following the fentanyl story and 26 per cent believe
recreational drugs are more dangerous than they were three years ago.

Gray said it's important to be proactive.

"Almost every jurisdiction in our province is starting to report that
there's an increase of these harder drugs," he said. "So what I'd hope
is we would do the research now as opposed to doing it when we're in a

The Health Ministry says it is committed to minimizing the risks of
injection drug use; it funds provincewide addictions services, as well
as needle exchange programs in eight health regions. It also continues
to assess the types of services it offers.

Research shows safe injection sites decrease death and illness among
drug users, as well as decrease the risk of infectious diseases.

Saskatchewan has the highest per capita instance of HIV cases in
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt