Pubdate: Wed, 23 Aug 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Ryan Thorpe
Page: B4


THERE are no plans to open a supervised injection site in Winnipeg, a
spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said in the
wake of Toronto opening its first city-run space for people to inject
illegal drugs.

Supervised injection sites are legal facilities where drug users are
able to use intravenous substances under medical supervision. They
have been a controversial harm-reduction strategy since the first
North American site opened in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in 2003.
Toronto opened its first official site Monday.

The WRHA and a spokesman for Mayor Brian Bowman confirmed opening a
safe injection site is not in the cards in the near future.

"Mayor Bowman is not actively seeking to establish safe injection
sites in Winnipeg. Public health officials with the Winnipeg Regional
Health Authority have indicated they have not seen evidence that a
safe injection site would benefit those who use illicit drugs in
Winnipeg," the spokesman said Monday.

There are currently 11 supervised injection sites in Canada actively
offering services. There are a further six sites waiting inspection
and 10 open applications. All active sites are located in British
Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

A 2017 poll conducted by Main Street Research on behalf of Postmedia
indicated 46 per cent of Winnipeggers supported creating safe
injection sites in the city.

Detractors of the strategy say such sites lead to increased drug use
and crime in the areas where they are located.

Proponents, however, say that is not the case, adding the sites help
limit the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, while reducing overdoses and
saving lives.

"For some people, it's a black-andwhite issue," said Anna Marie
D'Angelo, senior media relations officer with Vancouver Coastal
Health, the organization that runs North America's first safe
injection site.

"Harm-reduction strategies like this are beneficial and get some
people through recovery when nothing else works. If you look at the
patch (nicotine patch for cigarette smokers), that's harm reduction.

"No one has a problem with that. It's not until it comes to illicit
drugs that people say no."

She said she feels opposition to safe injection sites can stem from a
"not in my backyard" sentiment, but stresses scientific reports show
"there is no increased harm to the community and no increased crime

The current situation with intravenous drug use in the Winnipeg is
"dismal," said Ian Rabb, public relations officer with the Aurora
Recovery Centre in Gimli.

Despite that view, he said supervised injection sites would not be the
best use of resources in the city - increased funding for treatment
would be.

"We're not providing the services we need. I'm for long-term solutions
and treatment is the long-term solution," Rabb said.

"The long-term solution for any addict is not a safe place to inject.
It's a safe place to heal.

"Do we want to heal the person, or keep them sick? That's what we have
to ask."
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