Pubdate: Tue, 05 Dec 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Matthew Van Dongen
Page: A1


Two community agencies on hand to lend support for initiative which is
expected to be paid for by province

The city has endorsed a supervised injection site for downtown
Hamilton but it's up to a community agency to step up to run such a

The city's board of health endorsed the findings of a long-awaited
study Monday that recommend adding at least one permanent site in the
core for people to safely inject illegal drugs under the watchful eye
of health professionals.

But the study also recommended the site be "integrated" with an
existing agency that already offers "harm reduction" services, like
needle exchanges or addiction treatment.

Hamilton's public health unit will offer "in-kind" support for a
supervised injection site, said medical officer of health Dr.
Elizabeth Richardson, but she added it is expected the province will
fund operations by a willing community agency.

Richardson said unspecified agencies in the downtown area have
"informally expressed interest," but added it may take several months
before an application is completed and vetted by the government. (The
province is expected to pay for operations, but the federal government
also has to give an exemption for illegal drug use and possession on
site.) She wouldn't speculate about which agencies will apply to run a
supervised injection site, but two groups that already offer related
services showed up Monday to urge city support.

Wesley Urban Ministries already runs a supervised consumption site for
residents battling alcohol dependency, offers "harm reduction
materials" for drug users and sexual health counselling, noted housing
and homelessness director Dean Waterfield.

"We know practising harm reduction leads to further treatment, better
health care and better neighbourhoods," said Waterfield, who added 10
agency clients have died by drug overdose this year.

He urged councillors to add a supervised injection site "to the tool
box" of local agencies.

AIDS Network director Tim McClemont pointed to the agency's
partnership with public health on a needle exchange van as well as its
own permanent site on King Street East, which he estimated sees more
than 40 clients a day. "We are serving a population that is at risk …
and that requires a lot of help," he said.

Both agencies are located within the recommended core area bordered by
Barton Street, Queen Street, Ferguson Avenue and Main Street.

An emotional Tammy Burgess told councillors her 23-year-old daughter,
Brooke, died nine months ago after injecting drugs alone and
overdosing. "I know my daughter would have been alive today if there
was a safe injection site she could have gone to," said Burgess, who
described her daughter's struggle against addiction and eventual relapse.

The city study says a supervised injection site could help cut an
alarming trend of opioid-related overdose deaths in Hamilton, which is
considered a provincial hot spot. Nurse-supervised injection could
also help check the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C via dirty needles,
and offer a gateway to better health and addiction treatment.

Some councillors asked about policing challenges surrounding the
eventual site.

Hamilton Deputy Chief Dan Kinsella said police would have to work on
strategies to prevent a "potential decline in community safety,"
including the prospect of drug dealers targeting vulnerable residents
and possible increases in theft or violent crime.

But he also stressed police recognize the value of the harm reduction
goal. "Any time we can save a life we want to do that," he said.

Downtown Coun. Jason Farr said he welcomed the planned facility and
dismissed the potential for "not-in-my-backyard" concerns.

"This (injection drug problem) is already in our backyard," he said,
pointing to the prospect of discarded needles "right now" in parks,
laneways and public washrooms within walking distance from city hall.

"We are seeing people with this (drug addiction) disease dying now …
This is crying out for a decision that we locate at least one
supervised injection site in Ward 2."
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MAP posted-by: Matt