Pubdate: Wed, 25 Oct 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Catherine Thompson
Page: A1


WATERLOO REGION - Potential locations for supervised injection sites
in Waterloo Region will be made public by January, as Waterloo Region
Public Health begins a feasibility study into whether the harm
reduction service is needed here, what concerns the community might
have and how to address them.

A supervised injection site would provide a safe, clean place for
people to use their own drugs under the care of trained staff. Its
goals would be to reduce overdose rates and overdose deaths; reduce
transmission of diseases from shared needles; help drug users connect
to other health and social services, including drug treatment; and
reduce drug use in public places and the amount of unsafely discarded
needles and other litter.

Regional councillors expressed strong support for the project at a
community services committee meeting on Tuesday. But they made it
clear that if the project goes ahead, they don't want to see the
controversial service concentrated in one area.

Waterloo Region can learn from the experience of Vancouver, which has
run supervised injection sites for years, said Coun. Sean Strickland.
But he said that "we certainly don't want to replicate East Hastings
Street" in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, which he described as a
"national shame. … We can't end up having a concentration that is so
dense of services in one area that it creates a social travesty."

Harm reduction is "important work," said Kitchener Mayor Berry
Vrbanovic. "I believe this is the direction we need to go."

But he warned that it's "extremely important" to make sure services
are "appropriately spread out throughout the region, because this is a
challenge that exists in varying degrees throughout our community and
throughout our region."

Vrbanovic also stressed that public consultation and education are
vital. "It's also important that as we do it we do it in a way where
we bring the community along with us. Because one of the most
detrimental or harmful things would be to end up somewhere where quite
frankly it's not wanted in any way, shape or form, and clashes start
happening. It's not good for the initiative, it's not good for
community building and most importantly, it wouldn't be good for those
who need the help."

Local statistics paint a grim picture of escalating

>From January to September, paramedics in the region responded to 529
overdose calls, almost as many overdose calls as they got in all of
2016, according to the Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs Strategy.
That's almost 50 per cent more overdoses than for the same period in
2016, and 135 per cent more than the same period in 2015.

To get federal permission to run a safe injection site, the region must 
prove it has carried out extensive consultation with the community and 
has a plan to address concerns. Those heading the proposal outlined 
several ways the region will consult with the community between now and 
early December:

Starting Wednesday, members of the public will be able to comment on
the proposal in an online survey available at

Public health officials will interview injection drug users about
whether they would use a supervised injection site, where it should be
located, when it should be open and what services it should offer.

They will also interview groups that work with drug users about
whether the sites are needed in the region, what other services they
could offer, and how they might affect the community.

Responses from those groups will help narrow potential locations, said
Grace Bermingham, manager of planning and harm reduction at the
region. Ontario doesn't allow standalone injection sites; they must be
integrated with agencies that help drug users, such as public health

Once potential sites have been identified, likely around the end of
November, health officials will talk to groups who live, work or go to
school close to those sites, to hear their concerns and determine how
to address those concerns.

The list of potential sites will be contained in a report to the
committee in January.
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