Pubdate: Sat, 17 Feb 2018
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Joanna Frketich
Page: A4


The AIDS Network is putting itself forward to run Hamilton's first
supervised injectionsite at its downtown Effort Square location.

The AIDS service organization is preparing proposals to the provincial
and federal governments for a permanent site where people can inject
illegal drugs under the watchful eye of trained staff without fear of

Meanwhile, it is also proposing a smaller temporary overdose
prevention site as a stopgap that would allow supervised injection
until the permanent location was approved and operating.

Both would be located at the network's current home at 140 King Street
East, which is at Catharine Street South.

"We have an interest because we serve that population already," said
Tim McClemont, executive director. "A large number come here."

The AIDS Network runs harmreduction services including needle exchange
at its Effort Square location and the program's travelling van in
partnership with Hamilton's public health department.

"The population at risk ,which we've been seeing for years coming into
our needle exchange, is just growing," said McClemont. "They are
comfortable coming here because of our harm-reduction approach, which
is nonjudgemental ... There is an atmosphere of trust and respect when
they come here."

The proposal has the support of the Shelter Health Network ,which has
offered volunteers or other assistance to the proposed supervised
injection site.

"I'm working the front lines and I'm seeing people die at an alarming
rate from overdosing," said Dr. Jill Wiwcharuk, lead physician of the
Shelter Health Network. "There's no question that safe injection sites
save lives."

The city endorsed a supervised injection site in December in the core
area, which is bordered by Barton Street, Queen Street, Ferguson
Avenue and Main Street. But it was up to a community agency to step up
to run it. The AIDS Network aims to have its proposals ready by the
end of the month.

"People are already injecting in their homes or in the alleyways or in
the streets anywhere in the city," said McClemont. "What this does is
move the injection into a supervised and safer environment."

In addition, staff can help those using the site find treatment or
other services if they wish.

For the permanent site, the province would provide the funding while
the federal government grants the exemption from the Controlled Drugs
and Substances Act. The application process has been streamlined
because the sites are a key component to battling the country's opioid
overdose crisis.

The temporary overdose prevention sites are approved by the province
to run for three to six months. "The whole idea behind harm reduction
is essentially keeping people alive for as long as it takes for them
to want to get help," said Wiwcharuk.

Hamilton has been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis with a
higher number of overdose deaths when compared to the provincial
average. "It's touching us everywhere," said Wiwcharuk."You feel it in
the whole community when another person dies."
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