Pubdate: Sat, 03 Mar 2018
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Page: A10


An emergency situation demands an emergency response.

When people are trapped in a burning house or wrecked car, the
priority should be getting them out alive first, and then worrying
about damaged property or blocked roadways.

This is how people in Waterloo Region need to understand the horrific
and rising number of opioid overdoses ravaging their community.

We are, collectively, facing an emergency. People are dying in
staggeringly high numbers. Others are suffering terribly.

For all their sakes but also for the welfare of this region, we must
offer help - even as we work out the details.

And as this community ponders what that emergency response will be, it
should support the opening of safe, supervised injection sites for
drug users.

This practical if controversial solution has already met

Some critics object to a government program that lets people use
illicit drugs.

The most vocal resistance, however, comes from people living in the
city cores where drug abuse is rampant and the supervised clinics
would be located.

The regional government is considering opening three supervised
injection sites, one in downtown Kitchener, another in Cambridge's
Galt core and a third in another place or even a mobile unit.

Many residents in downtown Galt are especially opposed to the
proposal. To be fair to them, their concerns are valid and should be
dealt with, not discounted.

Yes, a supervised injection clinic in a downtown will attract the
clinic's clients - drug users - to that location. But it would also
save lives and beat addictions.

The opioid epidemic - and many health care workers call it that - is
exacting a terrible toll in this region.

There were 23 opioid-related deaths here in 2015 and 38 in

By the end of 2017, regional police had responded to 71 deaths that
were suspected to have been caused by overdoses of opioids and other

To understand how this is spiralling out of control, consider that
regional paramedics responded to 197 opioid-related calls in 2015, 410
in 2016 and 795 last year. That's a 303.6-per-cent increase in three

Opening supervised injections sites isn't the only way to buck this
trend. But it's a powerful tool successfully being used in Toronto and

The sites don't merely allow addicts to shoot up in a safer
environment. They offer help - counselling and advice in accessing
housing and social services.

The Galt and Kitchener cores are already popular destinations for drug
users. Opening clinics there would reduce the number of people using
drugs in public - as well as cut down the number of used syringes left
on the streets.

Shunting the clinics off to more inaccessible industrial areas would
limit such progress.

The region will move slowly and with care before making a final
decision on these injection sites. Residents' concerns should be
addressed wherever possible.

But at the end of the day, we have a choice to make. Do we step
forward with a proven cure or do we dither and let more of our
neighbours die?
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MAP posted-by: Matt