Pubdate: Tue, 20 Jun 2017
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Katherine Wilton
Page: A1


After years of lobbying for safe injection sites, outreach workers at
Cactus Montreal have opened a facility that will allow people to use
intravenous drugs under medical supervision.

Drugs users began entering the site on Berger St. in downtown Montreal
on Monday afternoon, injecting drugs in the presence of a nurse and
staff member.

"This is an important tool to reduce deaths and avoid infections,"
said Sandhia Vadlamudy, the executive director of Cactus. "We have
been waiting for this for a long time."

Health Canada has approved three supervised injection sites in
Montreal, along with Canada's first mobile unit, which circulated on
Montreal streets overnight on Monday offering services to those on the
margins. Cactus is expecting to supervise between 150 and 215
injections each day and will provide users with clean needles, a quiet
place to use the narcotics and on-site nurses who can intervene in the
event of an overdose, Vadlamudy said.

A second safe-injection site, operated by a community organization
called Dopamine, also opened in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve on Monday and
can supervise about 18 injections per day. A third site will open in
September in the Centre-Sud area. Once all three sites are
operational, they are expected to accommodate a total of 200 to 300
drug injections per day.

Ottawa gave the go-ahead for the program to try combating the opioid
crisis that has spread across parts of North America and is
particularly bad in British Columbia. According to Health Canada, the
sites can help reduce overdoses and minimize the transmission of
diseases and hospital visits without increasing the crime rate.
Montreal is the second city in Canada to have such facilities, after

"Every year, there are a lot of overdoses, and the fentanyl crisis in
Western Canada could hit us at any time," Vadlamudy said. "If someone
shows symptoms of an overdose, they can get adequate medical care and
be kept alive."

Drug users who walk through the door at Cactus are required to
register on their first visit. They will be asked what drugs they plan
to inject and will then do so in front of a nurse and an outreach
worker, who will look for signs of an overdose. After the injection,
users are asked to wait in a quiet room for 15 minutes before
returning to the street.

The sites are also expected to reduce the dramatically increasing
number of sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections - especially
hepatitis C and HIV - among people who inject drugs, according to
Montreal's public health department.

The program is funded by a three-year, $12-million grant from the
provincial government.

Outreach workers have been spending time on the streets trying to
persuade drug users to use the service. They say the sites contribute
to public safety because fewer drug users will leave needles in parks.

Many drug users have been involved in lobbying Health Canada to
approve the sites and are relieved they are finally open, Vadlamudy
said. "This is something they want because they know it will prevent
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