Pubdate: Sat, 02 Dec 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Page: A15


Facing the reality that Hamilton needs at least one supervised
injection site is not pleasant.

In an ideal world, such a thing might not be needed. People with drug
addictions would get counselling and support to break their addiction.
Until then, they could ingest drugs in a safe and clean

But this isn't an ideal world. We're in a historic and growing
street-drug crisis. And those qualities - access to support and a safe
environment - are exactly what you get with a supervised injection
site (SIS).

We need this, and that's why the board of health should support the
establishment of the first one, to be located someplace in the Queen
Street North/Ferguson Avenue North area, when the proposal comes up
Dec. 4.

Supervised injection sites work, based on the evidence.

The New England Journal of Medicine has endorsed them. The Supreme
Court of Canada has ruled in favour of their operation. Contrary to
the view that they encourage prolonged use, research at Insite in
Vancouver, Canada's oldest SIS, shows the number of users entering
treatment has increased 30 per cent. Experience also shows that
properly-run safe-injection sites dramatically decrease the amount of
dangerous litter - needles and the like - that builds up in alleys and
other popular less-safe injection sites.

A common misconception is that a SIS encourages first-time use. There
is no evidence to support that. One study showed that addicts visiting
an SIS had been using, on average, for 16 years. Other concerns
include increased crime in the SIS area. Some people, by no means all,
with drug addictions are already breaking the law to feed their habit.
To the extent that they might do so in the area around an SIS,
increased law enforcement can be brought to bear to mitigate that.

In terms of harm reduction, SIS facilities can help. They are linked
to emergency and support services, so overdoses - so alarmingly common
presently thanks to the opioid crisis - can be dealt with more quickly.

Safe-injection sites could also help deal with another alarming trend
- - the rise in blood-born infectious diseases. In Hamilton, the rate of
hepatitis C is 32 per cent higher than the provincial average, and HIV
rates are climbing. Clean needles and a supervised environment can
reverse that trend.

As reported by The Spectator's Joanna Frketich, Hamilton is a hot spot
in the opioid epidemic. The number of accidental deaths - half
associated with fentanyl - grew by four times between 2007 and 2016.

No one would suggest that safe-injection sites alone can serve as an
entire harm reduction strategy. Public education, law enforcement,
grassroots support, counselling and criminal prosecution where
appropriate are all important parts of public policy dealing with drug
abuse in general and the opioid crisis specifically.

But supervised injection sites have a role to play. They are showing
results in other places.

It doesn't make sense to exclude them in Hamilton.
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MAP posted-by: Matt