Pubdate: Wed, 08 Feb 2017
Source: Chronicle-Journal, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Chronicle-Journal
Author: Matt Vis


Even though supervised injection services have been deemed feasible
for Thunder Bay, many questions need to be answered before a facility
- - or possibly two - can become a reality.

The results of a Supervised Injection Services feasibility study were
presented Tuesday. The study recommends the city consider establishing
at least two sites in Thunder Bay, one in each of the north and south

Coun. Rebecca Johnson, chair of the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy, said
public consultation will be required to see if there is support before
any potential locations are examined.

"I think now we have to look at going to the community and talking to
them," Johnson said. "Then if we assume they will say move this
forward, then we will have to look at actual sites. Do we know where
that's going to be at this point in time? No, but at the same point we
do have some opportunities that have been presented to us that we'll
have to look at very closely."

Johnson is hoping those next steps can be taken within the next

A supervised injection site would allow users to bring drugs they had
obtained and inject them where safe syringes would be provided and
health care professionals are on standby in event of overdose.

The feasibility study surveyed 200 people who reported injecting drugs
within the past six months. It found that 69 per cent said they would
use a supervised injection site while another 11 per cent said they
might be willing to use a site.

Thomas Kerr, the study's principal investigator and a research
scientist at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said the
sites can be a "win-win" for both injecting drug users as well as the
broader public.

There is "no serious scientific debate" about the merits of a
supervised site, he added.

"Communities are safer as a result of these facilities and deal with
less public disorder related to injecting; and people who use drugs
get the health care they need," Kerr said.

"If you're someone who's angry about discarded syringes in your
neighbourhood, who's tired of seeing people injecting in public
places, well then what you want is a supervised injecting facility."

The study found that 75 per cent of respondents reported injecting in
the city's south core within the past six months, compared to 17 per
cent in the city's north core.

It recommended the city look at having a site in each area.

"The truth is, people will not walk miles and miles and miles to use
these facilities," Kerr said. "They need to be close and accessible to
where people live and where they buy or consume drugs."

The only two safe injection sites currently in Canada are located in
Vancouver, where the first one was established in the city's downtown
east side in 2003. On Monday, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott
announced three injection sites had been approved for Montreal.

Other Ontario cities exploring supervised injection sites include
Toronto, Ottawa and London.

Kerr said a number of mobile supervised sites are being established
across British Columbia, where more than 900 people died across the
province from drug overdoses in 2016.

The feasibility study consulted a number of community stakeholders,
who expressed desire for a facility that also provides opportunity for
participants to receive mental health and addiction services.

"I think the primary objectives are around disease prevention,
overdose prevention but certainly a major objective is connecting
people with other services and evaulations from around the world have
shown these facilities - as far as harm reduction interventions go -
are uniquely effective in facilitating those types of referrals," Kerr

Cynthia Olsen, co-ordinator of the city's drug strategy, said there
are some parallels that can be drawn between a supervised injection
site and Shelter House's managed alcohol program, which has operated
since 2012.

"We're talking about allowing individuals who are very vulnerable and
marginalized to have access to their substances without requiring
anything else of them to receive services," Olsen said.

"We know the participants in the managed alcohol program are having
more access to health care resources, to other programming and that's
the envisioning of what a site and services might look like in Thunder

Johnson said the next steps include recommendations about public
consultation being brought to the drug strategy, which would lead to
recommendations to city council and then trying to find appropriate

She acknowledged it would still have to be determined would be who is
on the hook to pay for the facility, though she was optimistic the
city could get some help.

"We know the province of Ontario and the minister of health is
supporting this direction. So, I'm hoping with that support would come
some money at some point in time as well," Johnson said.


200 respondents who reported injecting drugs within six months of
being surveyed

Median age: 36

Female: 44 per cent

Male: 56 per cent

Homeless or in unstable housing: 67 per cent

Sex work in the past 6 months: 18 per cent

Incarcerated in past 6 months: 7 per cent

Self-reported hepatitis C-positive: 34 per cent

Self-reported HIV-positive: 5 per cent

Willingness to use SIS: 69 per cent


Daily: 31 per cent

More than once a week: 27 per cent

Once a week: 14 per cent

1-3 times a month: 18 per cent

Less than once a month: 11 per cent

Shared syringes: 12 per cent

Overdosed at least once in life: 39 per cent

Overdosed in past 6 months: 8 per cent
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MAP posted-by: Matt