The Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites in Ottawa was formed in response to an ongoing health crisis.
Ottawa has Ontario’s highest rate of new HIV infection among injection drug users. 11% of people who inject drugs in Ottawa are infected with HIV, while 70% have contracted hepatitis C. Someone dies of drug overdose every 8 days in our city — deaths that could be prevented with timely medical intervention.
Supervised consumption sites are public health facilities that offer a safe, hygienic place where people can use their own drugs under medical supervision.
Canada’s first supervised injection site, Insite, has been operating since 2003 in downtown Vancouver. The evidence from Insite – and from over 90 such sites around the world – proves that supervised consumption sites reduce the spread of diseases such as HIV, prevent overdose deaths, and improve access to addiction treatment programs. They have also been shown to encourage cleaner, safer streets by reducing public drug use and drug equipment litter.
Opening supervised drug consumption sites in Ottawa would:
Reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis-C by providing sterile equipment and safe disposal for used needles
Prevent deaths caused by overdose
Decrease public drug use and drug-equipment litter
Provide access to health and social services, such as first aid treatment and addiction recovery programs
Sign the petition to show your support for supervised drug consumption services in Ottawa.
Ready to take action for harm reduction in Ottawa? May 7 marks the 3rd annual International Harm Reduction Day, an opportunity to promote evidence-based drug policies based on public health and human rights.
We're looking for volunteers to join us on Saturday May 7th and Sunday May 8th from 1-4pm to canvass in Sandy Hill, speaking to residents about the benefits of supervised consumption sites.
If you're available to join in, please fill out the form below and let us know. We'll be meeting up in front of Sandy Hill Community Health Centre at 1pm on both days.
Ottawa’s medical officer of health says a supervised injection service is the consummate example of health care that puts the needs of patients first.
Dr. Isra Levy told the Ottawa Board of Health on Monday that the harm reduction service fits squarely into the provincial government’s recently unveiled plan to build a patient-centred health care system in Ontario.
“I suggest that if ever there was a ready example of the need to put patients first, health first, this is the issue and this is the time,” said Levy, whose comments represent his most spirited defence to date of a supervised injection site in Ottawa.
Levy said a proposal by the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre represents a “logical extension” of the addiction and counselling services it now offers drug users. Such sites, he said, should be part of any comprehensive and modern approach to drug treatment.
“These services are known to save lives and they offer many other positive impacts for addicted individuals, their loves ones and the community at large,” he said, adding: “I believe that what we and our partners and the other heath agencies have been doing to prevent addictions and to minimize their harms has not been enough.”
The Vancouver politician who championed supervised injection sites in that city says Mayor Jim Watson should try to understand drug addicts before rejecting a plan that would keep more of them alive.
“I just get annoyed at politicians who don’t go out into the field and talk to the participants and find out what’s really going on,” former Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen said in an interview with Postmedia. “You can’t always rely on reports from your staff.”
Watson attends hundreds of community events each year, but Sean LeBlanc, chair of the Drug Users Advocacy League of Ottawa, said the mayor has yet to accept one of his invitations. “We have invited Mr. Watson to several events over several different years. He has attended none of them,” said LeBlanc.
Watson is a longstanding opponent of the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre’s plan to open a supervised injection site in downtown Ottawa. He has said tax money is better spent on drug treatment programs.
Owen said Watson’s position is “ridiculous” and perpetuates the notion that drug use is a crime rather than a health issue. “You’re not encouraging people to use drugs by opening a supervised injection site,” he argued. “You’re assisting people who need help.”
Get involved for community health and safety by joining in at our next organizers meeting:
Tuesday April 26th, 5:30pm at Centretown Community Health Centre, 420 Cooper Street, room 404.
CSCS is a grassroots group of community members who are passionate about creating a healthier Ottawa. If you're interested in getting involved with our campaign to bring supervised injection to Ottawa, please join in!
Conversations about supervised injection sites, such as the one that might come to Sandy Hill, can get polarized fast.
On one side, you have the people who say, “How can you ignore all the evidence that supervised injection sites save lives and might even make the neighbourhood safer?” On the other, you have the people who say, “How can you honestly be arguing that the state should be paying to help people shoot up?”
The issue divides people along fundamental philosophical lines: those who trust the evidence, and those who trust their guts.
Politicians tend to fall onto one side or the other, too, but some of the more wily politicians hedge their bets. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, for example, has long argued that supervised injections sites simply aren’t the best use of scarce resources, which should fund rehab programs instead.
This is, from a political perspective, nice and safe. Nobody is going to argue against funding rehab programs.
From a policy perspective, though, it’s incredibly damaging. It perpetuates the false notion that treatment and harm reduction are two distinct paths. In fact, they’re often part of the same journey.
“We think of addiction treatment as anything that can move someone toward stabilization,” says Rob Boyd, director of the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre’s harm reduction program. That means something different for every person, depending on where they’re starting.
As Ottawa's top doctor voices his support for supervised drug injection sites, there's a mixed opinion among city councillors who may eventually play a key role in approving one.
Dr. Isra Levy, Ottawa's medical officer of health, put out a statement earlier this week about the benefits of a place where drug users can inject while being watched by trained staff and later said the city may need more than one of them.
The director of the downtown Sandy Hill Community Health Centre is also holding public meetings on the idea it could host a supervised injection site, pending approval of the federal government.
When asked Friday about supervised injection sites in Ottawa, city councillors expressed a wide range of opinions.
A coalition of addiction treatment agencies has unanimously endorsed the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre’s plan to open a supervised injection site in downtown Ottawa.
“There is clear evidence of need for supervised injection services in Ottawa,” Lise Girard, chair of the Champlain Addiction Co-ordinating Body, wrote in a letter of support obtained by Postmedia. The co-ordinating body represents 20 government-funded agencies in the region that offer drug and alcohol treatment programs.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, a longstanding critic of the plan to open a safe injection site, has said that scarce health care dollars are better spent on drug and alcohol treatment programs in the city.
But in an interview, Girard said if she had the choice, she would finance a supervised injection site in downtown Ottawa rather than give more money to local addiction programs.
“I would put the money toward a safe injection site at this time,” said Girard, also senior director of the mental health and addictions programs at the Ottawa Withdrawal Management Centre. “Because this is going to save lives. People overdose and there are new drugs coming on the street all the time.”
Jordon MacLean worked an 18-hour day on Thursday but still had trouble getting to sleep when he finished.
The social worker and coordinator at Ottawa's Drug Users Advocacy League (DUAL) said Friday he was extremely excited to hear the city's chief medical officer of health talk about the benefits of a supervised drug injection site.
"Wow what a difference from a month ago when it was no comment and now everyone's saying this is proven, with evidence, that this is about saving lives," said MacLean, a recovering drug user himself, on Friday.
"It makes me want to cry, it's just so amazing that we're finally caring about people that are vulnerable."
On Thursday, Dr. Isra Levy, Ottawa's medical officer of health, put out a statement talking about the benefits of a supervised injection site as part of a broader harm reduction strategy for drug users.
The City of Ottawa's top doctor says supervised drug injection sites "save lives," and said if the city chooses to welcome the facilities, it may need more than one.
"Safer, or supervised consumption sites are an unquestioned part of the spectrum of health services," said Dr. Isra Levy, the city's chief medical officer of health.
"Do we need one in Ottawa? We may need more than one."
"The issue that then becomes part of this conversation is, what about access? To get good access, we may want to be looking at things like mobile services, we may want to be looking at services in other, existing, health facilities."