Pubdate: Fri, 02 Feb 2018
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Windsor Star
Author: Jordan Westfall
Page: A6


Physicians are afraid of doing the right thing, says Jordan

Public health officials in Windsor-Essex are sounding alarms about
overdose deaths increasing in the past year.

They have stated their interest in "exploring " if the cities of
Windsor and Leamington need supervised consumption sites through a
"feasibility study."

Supervised consumption sites are places for people to use drugs in a
safer manner, with properly trained staff ensuring nobody dies of overdose.

Feasibility studies are costly to taxpayers, and even more expensive
for people at risk of overdose, who will pay for this consultation
with their lives.

Windsor cannot wait any longer. Thirty-seven people in Windsor-Essex
died of a drug-overdose in 2016. That's a life gone every 10 days.

Consultation processes about supervised consumption in other
communities have taken months, and even years.

It doesn't take a feasibility study or a PhD to do the math: public
consultation means more death, while residents at risk of overdose
wait for their fates to be decided.

This is by no means a recent crisis. Windsor has already lost hundreds
of people to overdoses throughout its recent history. We've been
grappling with this epidemic for many years, and it was a crisis long
before the city's decision makers decided to call it one.

I could have been a casualty of this negligence. As an undergrad
student at the University of Windsor I used opioid drugs daily. I
watched this overdose epidemic mutate into the living nightmare that
has claimed thousands of victims across Canada. I watched as friends
working in manufacturing got cut off their prescription opioids and
turned to street drugs. Human lives, knocked down from chronic pain
and pill restrictions, dropping to the ground with a sick thud.

That was five years ago. Thanks to the efforts of government to
restrict access to prescription opioids, this epidemic has only gotten
more severe.

Prescription opioids are predictable in dosage. The user knows exactly
how much they're taking. That's why it is so dangerous when government
restricts access to these drugs. Not as many people in Windsor use
prescription opioids anymore. They're using street fentanyl now, which
is completely unpredictable and much more dangerous.

That's why people who use drugs in Windsor and Leamington need
immediate access to overdose prevention services.

To stem an increasingly dire overdose epidemic, Ontario's provincial
government is giving permission to communities to open "overdose
prevention sites" while they complete the lengthy federal process to
apply for a supervised consumption site.

Imagine if your health care and safety depended on your community's
approval. Would you still get it? If you required life-saving health
care, how would you feel if it was delayed by a year and left up to
your greater community?

You might not be around much longer to complain. This is a fact of
life for dozens of people in Windsor who may not make it until next
year. This is what officials at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit
have decided for them. These are physicians who are afraid to do the
right thing and open an overdose prevention site. Instead they'll pawn
their responsibility onto their greater community.

The results will be deadly. So don't let public health physicians tell
you otherwise.

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Jordan Westfall lives in Vancouver and is president of the advocacy 
group Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs. He grew up in Windsor.
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