Pubdate: Wed, 25 Oct 2017
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Shelley Williams
Page: A8


Coalition of agencies is working to provide 24/7 service, Shelley
Williams writes.

Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services Edmonton, known as
AMSISE, is a coalition of 25 individuals and groups, including people
with lived experience, community agencies, medical, academic, and
public sector representatives.

AMSISE started as a conversation with Edmonton's harm reduction needle
distribution service, Streetworks, in January of 2012 and continues to
be a community-driven initiative.

The focus is on people with severe and chronic addictions, usually
homeless, whose chaotic and furtive injection-drug use takes place in
unsafe environments, including parks, back alleys, behind dumpsters,
along fences, and in agency and public washrooms. Multiple studies
have established a direct link between unstable housing and public
injecting. Communities will benefit by reducing unsafe needle debris
as an unintentional hazard.

Building on indisputable evidence on the effectiveness of supervised
consumption services (SCS), we developed a tailored strategy in
Edmonton that embeds micro-sized SCS within three community
organizations. Rather than building a standalone, storefront facility,
such as Insite in Vancouver, the model adds small-scale (micro-sized),
dispersed services within agencies that already work with this
population, providing health and social supports, to reduce harm and
connect people with a variety of wrap-around supports.

The intent is to offer as close to 24/7 coverage as possible across
the agencies, aligned with the agencies' normal operating hours, and
involve nurses, addiction counsellors, and harm reduction support workers.

None of the three community organizations has the space, staffing, or
hours of service on their own to meet the level of need for SCS in
Edmonton's inner city without a costly and time-consuming expansion.
Each organization is unique and has program strengths and trusting
relationships among people with problematic substance use. They will
offer medically supervised environments for consuming drugs with
emergency medical assistance if needed, and co-ordinate their
resources to connect people with a wide range of health and social

We are pleased to now have the federal approval from Health Canada and
the financial support from Alberta Health to offer
supervised-consumption services in Edmonton. This service is long
overdue and AMSISE will be moving forward in finalizing capital
improvements and starting the services in each of the

AMSISE is fully aware that this is but one thread in a blanket of
services needed to support people with addictions. Comprehensive
individualized services within a harm-reduction framework are crucial
for meeting people where they are at and supporting change.

We are eager to see harm reduction services and strategies continue to
develop to meet the ever-changing needs of our communities.

While supervised-consumption services will remain our key focus, we
also know that this one type of service will not solve the complex
social issues related to addictions, poverty, mental health and
homelessness. Members of the coalition will continue to work on
provincial, municipal and community-based initiatives to help create
healthier communities.

This one small step is a huge milestone in saving lives and providing
an opportunity for people to come out from the shadows of back alleys
and other public spaces and access a safe environment. We are removing
some of the stigma and offering a health service with the dignity and
respect that every person deserves.

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Shelley Williams is chair of Access to Medically Supervised Injection 
Services Edmonton and executive director of HIV Edmonton.
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MAP posted-by: Matt