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.
Get involved for community health and safety by joining in at our next organizers meeting:
Tuesday May 10th, 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!
Organizers of a campaign for a supervised injection site at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre are hopeful their proposal will become a reality soon even as canvassers encountered some opposition while promoting the idea in the neighbourhood on Saturday afternoon.
Bill Muirhead who described himself as a "pensioner," said he has found needles on his lawn in Sandy Hill but is philosophically opposed to the idea of a publicly-funded supervised injection site.
"I'm not totally in favour of this," he told canvassers on Saturday afternoon. "Those drugs are illegal to start with and I don't think we want to sort of encourage people to do this and go in that direction. And, of course, these places are all funded — publicly funded. Somebody has to pay for them."
He added that he was concerned making it easier to use injection drugs might encourage more people to use them.
But canvasser Karim Alameddine explained that showing compassion to people who have addictions and feel marginalized might actually have the opposite effect.
With support from health workers, people who use drugs can decrease their doses in the ultimate goal of quitting altogether, if they choose, canvasser Chris Dalton said.
"They did find, as well, in Vancouver, that there actually was cost savings," Dalton said, as he handed Muirhead pamphlets with more information.
"When you factor in medication for HIV, for Hepatitis C, for hospital visits, for policing — that actually when you look at the larger costs to society of drug use, especially drug use among the homeless population, that those are actually more expensive than just creating a site to reduce these things," Dalton added.
Volunteers from the Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites in Ottawa will be canvassing the Sandy Hill neighbourhood on Saturday to raise awareness about safe injection sites.
Starting in the afternoon, volunteers will be going around with information to keep residents informed and to banish any misconceptions they may have about safe injection sites.
The canvassing coincides with International Harm Reduction Day, which aims to raise awareness and promote services to help drug users.
“We’re trying to be as open and as honest as possible,” said Catherine Hacksel, an organizer with CSCS Ottawa. “It’s always good to hear what concerns people have.
“Just from my experience talking to people in the area, once we get the conversation going in a respectful manner, people are generally open to the idea, once they can get their minds wrapped around it.”
The Sandy Hill Community Health Centre has expressed an interest in adding a safe injection site to its list of services, and held public consultations in April. The hope is to have the service up and running by spring 2017.
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 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.
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.”
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.