Ottawa needs multiple supervised injection sites, researchers say

With supervised injection sites on the horizon and an increased number of overdoes in the mix, Ottawa should aim to have two or three supervised injection sites in locations most likely to be used by drug users, said Ahmed M. Bayoumi, a researcher and physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

Bayoumi, with a number of other researchers, helped conduct a recent study on the cost-effectiveness of supervised injection sites in both Toronto and Ottawa. They found that the optimal number for Ottawa was two.

But, with overdoses on the rise in Ottawa, Bayoumi said the study might have underestimated that number.

While one supervised injection site would be cost-effective for the city, Bayoumi said, it wouldn’t provide the maximum health benefits to drug users themselves.

Rob Boyd, Oasis program director at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, says a larger number of smaller sites would be more beneficial.

“We’ve been living with a serious opiate use epidemic, for the past 20 years, but the stakes have been raised by the powered bootleg Fentanyl,” said Boyd, who is a front-line worker with drug users.

“There is an urgency to do something quickly.”

The city’s concentrated drug use helps when it comes to picking locations for the supervised injection sites.

Four community health centres in Ottawa are already looking into the idea of offering supervised injection services to drug addicts, according to the Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites in Ottawa.

The Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, at its Nelson Street location, could be the first. Boyd said the centre would apply for a federal exemption through Health Canada so that it can open a supervised injection site this fall.

Ottawa’s board of health voted in favour of “enhancing harm reduction strategies,” which could include “supervised injection services” in June, but there is no immediate plans by the city to make these services available.

By Evelyn Harford
Source: Metro Ottawa