Pubdate: Thu, 01 Mar 2018
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Johanna Weidner
Page: B1


WATERLOO REGION - Waterloo Region plans to look further into pursuing
three supervised injection sites, following a study that found a need
and support in the community for the service to combat fatal opioid

Sites are proposed for the central cores of Kitchener and Galt, and a
third spot to be determined that could be a mobile unit.

"In Waterloo Region, we know that overdose is on the rise," said Grace
Bermingham, regional manager of information, planning and harm reduction.

Bermingham presented findings from the first phase of a feasibility
study on supervised injection sites to a regional committee on
Tuesday. The second phase involves identifying potential locations and
further consultations with people who live, work or go to school near
a proposed site.

The study found there's an estimated 4,000 people injecting drugs in
the region.

"We know it is likely a slight underestimate," Bermingham

About half injected daily and just over 75 per cent reported having
injected publicly in the last six months.

About four out of five reported injecting drugs alone, increasing the
risk for a fatal overdose. Accidental overdose was reported by 39 per
cent of respondents, and 47 per cent had administered naloxone to
someone overdosing.

Most people who inject drugs said that they would use or might use
supervised injection services if they were available in the region.

Almost 3,600 people completed the online public survey, and nearly
two-thirds were in favour of supervised injection sites with the most
commonly mentioned benefits being a reduction in public drug use, a
decrease in overdoses and reduction in the spread of blood-borne infections.

Despite the strong support, some did not think the sites were right
for the region. Concerns were expressed about a negative impact on
neighbourhoods where they were located, including increased crime and
decreased property values.

Staff recommendations called for a special evening meeting next month
to seek input on the report, but councillors asked for at least two
dates to ensure people could attend.

Getting residents on board with supervised injection sites was an
issue brought up by several councillors and delegations.

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said this is the route the region
needs to take, "but it's incredibly important we need to bring the
community along with us on this journey."

Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig said many people in Cambridge were opposed
to the sites, and there has not been enough focus on how it will
affect residents.

"We're simply one-dimensional in dealing with the addicts," Craig

"You have to deal with the community impacts."

While he would accept the report for information, Craig said he was
opposed to a site in Cambridge's core.

He urged councillors to consider other alternatives, and work on
building the eroded public confidence.

Craig also pointed to the more than 300,000 unreturned syringes -
almost half of all those handed out last year through the region's
needle program.

"People have got to feel safe and we're missing these aspects," Craig

Coun. Sue Foxton, Mayor of North Dumfries, also said the region could
"do better." "I think we're going in the right direction. I just want
all of us to open our minds to the possibilities," she said.

Four delegations spoke, two in support of the sites and two asking
councillors to consider other options.

"This is a health issue," said Stephen Gross of the Kitchener Downtown
Community Health Centre. "This is about people."

He said the safe injection sites would create a safe space within the
community to support people grappling with addiction, calling it a new
response to a longstanding problem.

"A new response takes time for people to understand," Gross

"No matter what we do, we will never get everyone on board … I don't
know that that should be a goal."

Cambridge resident Cindy Watson said residents want reassurances that
their quality of life won't be affected.

"It's your responsibility to come up with a solution that everyone can
live with," Watson told councillors. "I don't believe communities are
ready for permanent sites."

Cambridge coroner Dr. Hank Nykamp said most overdose deaths happen in
the home, and asked the region to look beyond just providing a safe
place for people to inject.

"The bottom line is we need to treat their addictions," Nykamp

He wants the region to look into providing hydromorphone or heroin
treatment as a way to overcome their opioid addiction while avoiding
the danger of potentially contaminated street drugs.

"Set your goals high," Nykamp said. "I think we can be an example in
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MAP posted-by: Matt