Pubdate: Fri, 20 Oct 2017
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The London Free Press
Author: Jonathan Sher
Page: A2


After years of debate over whether the city should open supervised
injection sites for those who use drugs, Londoners soon will get a
chance to weigh in.

Public hearings will start later this month or November, says Dr.
Christopher Mackie, chief medical officer of health with the
Middlesex-London Health Unit.

While Mackie first floated the idea more than four years ago, it made
no sense to push for the sites until Londoners learned about their
potential benefits and how risks to public safety could be mitigated,
he said Thursday.

"Was the community ready for it (four years ago)? Definitely not,"
Mackie said.

The drug crisis is hardly new: Overdoses led to a record number of ER
visits in 2008 and a record number of deaths in 2012, according to
stats from the health unit.

Nor have drug overdoses suddenly overtaken motor vehicle collisions as
a cause of death among adults ages 15 to 50; that happened years ago,
Mackie said.

Instead, what's new is what's on the horizon - fentanyl has caused
devastating effects in British Columbia and organized crime is seeking
to expand its hold on streets here.

"It's a recipe for disaster," Mackie said.

Also problematic is an opioid called OxyNEO that can be injected as a
gel. Its use may explain an increase in fatal infections in the lining
around the heart, Mackie said.

Earlier Thursday, Mackie briefed the London Police Services Board
about the long-standing drug crisis and the need to combat it with
supervised injection sites designed carefully to enhance, rather than
harm, public safety.

Board members, who include London Mayor Matt Brown, voted to consider
adopting an official policy towards injection sites when the board
meets next month.

In February, Ontario HIV Treatment Network conducted a report that
recommended downtown and Old East as the best locations for supervised

That recommendation later led business leaders in those locations to
ask politicians at city hall to create limits on where injection sites
could be located, keeping them certain distances from places such as
schools and day cares.
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