City survey finds huge support for safe injection sites in Ottawa
An unscientific survey by Ottawa’s public-health unit over the summer found two-thirds of us support new supervised drug-injection facilities aimed at helping addicts survive overdoses.
The survey, an online questionnaire, was a consultation meant to gauge the public’s attitude toward such sites, which Ottawa Public Health thinks would work best added to existing community health centres and other agencies that operate needle exchanges and methadone clinics. Anybody could go to the health unit’s website and fill the survey out — so it’s more like an Internet version of a public meeting than a poll.
According to the health unit, more than one-quarter of the participants identified themselves as either health practitioners or people who work at agencies that help drug users. They also gave out paper copies to people at existing drug clinics; five per cent of respondents said they’re current or former users of harm-reduction services. The result is what the health unit calls a “a convenience sample,” people who were easy to reach.
Nevertheless, 66 per cent of the 2,263 people who took part said they believe supervised injection sites would be beneficial in Ottawa, against 27 per cent who oppose the idea. The most support came from the wards where injection sites would be likeliest to open — Somerset, Rideau-Vanier, Capital, River and Kitchissippi, where support ranged from 77 to 90 per cent.
The survey even found more support than opposition (based on just a few dozen participants) in suburban and rural wards like West Carleton-March, Kanata South and Cumberland. Only in Barrhaven and Gloucester-South Nepean were outright majorities of respondents opposed.
More than half of respondents have concerns, though, mostly focused on the idea that safe injection sites will attract more drug users and dealers, which will be bad for safety and for property values. Keep informing residents what’s going on and listen hard when they complain, respondents suggested.
The survey is part of the health unit’s efforts to work out how best to open supervised injection sites in Ottawa. In June, on advice from the city’s top public-health doctor Isra Levy, the board of health voted in favour of supervised injection sites in principle, though they’d actually be operated by those outside agencies that already offer harm-reduction services. That’s different from the best-known injection site in Canada, Vancouver’s InSite, which opened as a special-purpose facility in 2003.
The idea is that with nurses and other health workers around, needle-drug users would be less likely to die of overdoses in clean clinics than in alleys and public washrooms, and more apt to ask for help with their addictions when they want it.
By David Reevely
Source: Ottawa Citizen