Pubdate: Tue, 07 Feb 2017
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Rene Bruemmer
Page: A1


Health Canada has given Montreal approval to open three supervised
drug injection sites, making it only the second city in the country to
have the facilities on its territory.

Canada's health ministry made the decision partly in an effort to stem
the opioid overdose crisis racking British Columbia and several
regions of the United States.

Montreal's public health authorities, drug counselling organizations
and its mayor have been lobbying for the sites for years, arguing they
save lives and reduce drug consumption in public spaces, making
communities safer. They have been stymied by critics, including the
previous Conservative government, who argued the sites would increase
crime rates and promote drug use. The Liberal government of Justin
Trudeau has voiced its support for the sites, and in December eased
strict restrictions against opening them imposed by the previous

Two of Montreal's sites will be in the downtown Ville Marie borough,
and the other in Hochelaga Maisonneuve. Organizers say they could be
open by this spring, after construction work is completed and staff
hired and trained.

At the centres, people injecting drugs will be supervised by trained
staff and nurses who can intervene in the case of an overdose.

The facilities also provide sterile equipment, information about drugs
and basic health care, and referrals on where to go for drug treatment
and rehabilitation.

"The government of Canada is committed to doing its part to address
the public health crisis related to opioid overdoses and deaths across
Canada," Health Minister Jane Philpott said in a statement.

The government has found that injection sites can reduce the
overdoses, the transmission of diseases and hospital visits without
increasing crime rates, she said.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre called safe-injection sites a matter of
public safety.

"Under the Constitution, we need to have the capacity to protect
people, even if it's from themselves," Coderre said, referring to a
2011 Supreme Court decision that ruled closing an injection site
operating in Vancouver would jeopardize the health and lives of its

"These sites are key for intervention, and also help make sure we can
build bridges with (people battling addictions) to protect them. If
you want to surround them and accompany them, you need to build trust
first, and these sites will help do that."

The sites will be overseen by the local provincial health authority
Centre integre universitaire de sante et de services sociaux (CIUSSS)
du Centre-Sud-de-l'Ile-de-Montreal in conjunction with community
organizations Cactus, Dopamine and Spectre de Rue.

Cactus director Sandhia Vadlamudy said her organization hopes to open
their site before the summer, close to their location on Sanguinet
St., which is near the corner of Ste-Catherine and St-Denis Sts. The
site will have 10 rooms where people can inject drugs that they bring
with them, under the supervision of trained technicians. Inhalation of
drugs will not be allowed.

Cactus serves about 100 to 300 people a day, depending on the time of
year. Vadlamudy says she expects to see about 150 of their regular
clientele coming in daily to use the supervised injection services.

Cactus is hiring 11 employees to work at the site, not including the
nurses, who will be supplied by the provincial government.

The province is covering the expenses for the three sites, which are
$4.7 million for the first year, and $3.7-million a year thereafter.
Health Canada will inspect the sites before they are allowed to open.

Vadlamudy said studies of the more than 100 supervised injection sites
that exist worldwide have shown they benefit users and the communities
they're in, in part by ensuring addicts don't leave used needles in
public areas.

"It adds a service that provides risk reduction while increasing the
quality of life for the neighbourhood," she said.

Although the fentanyl crisis has not erupted in Montreal, those using
Cactus's services tell them it's becoming more prevalent, Vadlamudy

Health Canada is studying demands to open 10 more sites.

Five of them are in British Columbia, which houses the country's only
existing injection centres, both in Vancouver.

The cities that have applied are Vancouver (2), Surrey (a suburb of
Vancouver, (2), Victoria (1), Toronto (3), Ottawa (1) and Montreal (1)
- - the city is also asking permission to create a mobile safe injection
site). In Montreal in the summer of 2014, 233 people suffered drug
overdoses, and 28 died.

More than 900 people died of confirmed or suspected overdoses in
British Columbia in 2016.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt