Pubdate: Wed, 28 Jun 2017
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Nick Eagland
Page: A3


Harm Reduction: Health Canada allows use of oral and intra-nasal 
substances at new consumption sites

Harm reduction advocates in Surrey say federal approval allowing drug
users to use orally and nasally - and not just by injection - at two
supervised consumption sites is long overdue and will save lives.

Health Canada on Tuesday approved Fraser Health's request to provide
supervised consumption of oral and intra-nasal substances - the first
time such an exemption has been granted in Canada - at SafePoint on
135A Street, which opened on June 8, and Quibble Creek Sobering and
Assessment Centre on 94A Avenue, which began providing supervised
consumption services on June 20.

Two other supervised consumption sites that have existed in Vancouver
for years, along with those that have recently been allowed to open in
the city and elsewhere in Canada, still only allow drug use by injection.

Dr. Victoria Lee, chief medical health officer for Fraser Health, said
the exemption allowing people to take various drugs through different
means will expire in one year before another application must be
submitted. She said while the main concern is saving lives, supervised
consumption sites are also a gateway to treat opioid addiction.

"We want to make sure that our services are providing as big a reach
as possible," she said.

"We heard from colleagues from around the country that they didn't
even know that this was an option," Lee said of the health authority's
request for approval of three modes of drug consumption.

Ron Moloughney, president of the Surrey Area Network of Substance
Users, said the Health Canada approval was greatly needed.

He said drug users are consuming "a whole gauntlet" of substances that
aren't always injected or smoked. He's seen drug users drinking hand
sanitizer and crushing and snorting painkillers.

"We've been waiting for this for a long, long time."

At the Overdose Prevention Society in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside,
Sarah Blyth and her colleagues have been supervising people who
consume substances orally or intra-nasally since last fall.

Up to 700 people visit the site per day, Blyth said. Roughly half
smoke and half inject their substance, but some will snort a line of
cocaine or another substance during their visit, she added.

The site has no exemption for such substances but Blyth said that
because the overdose situation is so dire, allowing such substance use
helps volunteers make contact with those drug users and refer them to
health and social services.

"They do everything - anything goes," Blyth said. "So they come in and
whatever they'd be doing on the street, we just watch and make sure
that they're OK."

Jordan Westfall, president of the Canadian Association of People Who
Use Drugs, said his group also welcomes the change, and hopes more
health regions will obtain exemptions.

"I think it's great to expand access to this to everybody using
opioids right now because obviously the drug supply is contaminated
and everybody is at risk," he said.

Westfall's organization has also been advocating for ventilated
inhalation rooms, which have been proven to reduce harm.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall said the supervision of a
wider range of substances at the two Surrey sites will help save lives
and help reverse more overdoses.

"In addition, staff at both sites will have greater opportunities to
engage with people and connect them to treatment services when they
are willing to access them," Kendall said.

Since its opening, SafePoint has seen 1,079 visits by 203 people who
have accessed supervised consumption services, with an average of 5.3
visits per person. Fraser Health says 19 overdoses have been reversed,
with zero deaths.

"Since opening on June 8, we have had more than one thousand visits.
This latest exemption from Health Canada means we will be more
inclusive and provide care to more people," said Lee.

Fraser Health's application did not request an exemption for smoking
crack because that would have created an occupational hazard for
workers, Lee said.
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