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Ottawa may need 'more than 1' drug injection site, city's top doctor says

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."

Ottawa must decide whether it wants a safe injection site: provincial health minister

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins has suggested he will only consider funding a supervised injection site for Ottawa if the project has municipal approval.

In a statement issued to Postmedia, Hoskins said decisions about supervised injection sites rest mostly with federal and municipal governments.

“I understand that such a proposal is currently being considered by the City of Ottawa,” he said. “Our government has been clear that we will consider a request for a safe injection site if a municipality were to come forward with a proposal.”

Asked to clarify whether the province would consider a proposal that came directly from a health centre, not a municipality, an official in Hoskins’s office said, “We’re not going to prejudge the outcomes of the municipal process.”

Hoskins said he hopes the federal government’s new openness to supervised injection sites will act as a catalyst, and bring political leaders together to address the issue.

Ottawa Citizen: Ottawa should have supervised injection sites

In a hallway in the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, there’s a memorial wall of photos and handwritten notes. “I miss your face,” reads one note. Another says: “My heart misses your heart.”

And then this, which should stop you cold: “In memory of everyone the system couldn’t help.”

Each year, an estimated 40 people die from drug overdoses in Ottawa, many from injection drug use. One way to help users who can’t shake their addiction is to monitor the injection at a supervised injection site. In the event of an overdose, there’s medical aid on site. Users might feel less rushed, which helps prevent overdose and infection. And more drug users would get access to clean needles, thereby reducing the spread of disease.

That same health centre whose little wall documents so much heartbreak proposes to open a safe, clean room where users can shoot up.

This sort of supervised injection site may not help everyone (there are up to 5,600 injection drug users in Ottawa.) But Ottawa needs to find a way to keep addicts alive long enough so they have a chance for proper treatment.

Ottawa supervised injection site consultations begin

In less than two years addicts in the city of Ottawa could have a safe, clean environment to do drugs.

A public consultation took place Monday at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre about a proposal to open the capital’s first supervised injection site at the community health centre. The intervention program has been applauded by many health care professionals as an effective method to reduce overdoses, while also reducing the spread of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C.

Drug users, neighbours weigh in on safe injection site proposal for Ottawa

Neighbours, real estate agents and drug users all sat together Monday night to hear the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre's proposal for a safe drug injection site in Ottawa.

It was the first of four meetings that the centre's director, Rob Boyd, said are aimed at educating people about misconceptions as well as hearing out people's concerns.

Boyd wants to incorporate the feedback and hopefully some community buy-in as part of a detailed plan to present to the centre's board of directors in June, proposing to create a supervised drug injection site at its Nelson Street location.

About 30 people took part in sessions showing how users would access the centre's lower floor, where already about 700 drug users take part in the centre's needle exchange.

Those using the new safe injection site would receive an drug injection kit, which includes items such as a clean needle and alcohol swabs.

The person would then move into an adjacent room to inject her/himself under the supervision of a nurse.

Darren Noftall is already using the needle exchange program, as well as other services from the centre. He said he injects himself on average three times a day.

"Addicts are people too, and we deserve a safe space," said Noftall, who explained that because he injects at home he is at high risk of being alone if he suffers an overdose.

Safe-injection plan will proceed with or without city support, health-centre executive says

Officials at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre intend to pursue their plan to open a safe-injection service in downtown Ottawa even if the proposal is ultimately rejected by city council.

“We are very open to continuing the dialogue locally with city council or the board of health, but if local officials can’t or won’t provide letters of support for us, we just have to accept that and move on,” health centre executive Rob Boyd told reporters Monday.

Boyd made his comments as the centre launched a month-long series of public consultations on its proposal for a safe-injection site. It wants to add an injection service — with room for up to six drug users — to its existing cluster of medical and social services for people at high risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis C.

Consultation on supervised injection site begins next week in Ottawa

Public consultations begin Monday on a controversial proposal by the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre to give injection drug users a safe place to feed their addictions.

The first of four planned meetings will take place at the centre’s Nelson Street facility on Monday evening. Local residents will be invited to learn about the proposed safe injection site, ask questions and offer feedback.

The health centre wants to add a small-scale facility — with room for four or five injection drug users — to its existing cluster of services.

“The goal for us is to provide some education to the local community in terms of some of the myths and misunderstandings about a supervised injection service,” said health centre executive Rob Boyd. “And we want to hear what they have to say about our service model.”

The safe injection site, he said, can address the principal health risks faced by drug users — overdoses and infections — while also reducing the number of people injecting in public places and discarding their needles.

The survivor: Dave Pineau, addict and advocate for harm reduction

As Dave Pineau’s injection drug use snowballed in the early 1980s, harm reduction amounted to a matchbox and a bottle of Aqua Velva.

Pineau regularly shared needles with four members of a close-knit group of friends, all of them homeless on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The men were partial to cocaine and speed, a powerful amphetamine that jacks up the central nervous system. They’d mix the drugs with water, draw the solution into a needle, and slam it into their veins.

They knew the practice came with risks: that hepatitis B and other diseases could be passed in a needle tainted with infected blood. But new needles cost $10 each, while used ones were $5.

So the men adopted rudimentary safety measures.

They’d buy new needles when there was money to spare, and sharpen old ones on the side of a matchbox then sterilize them with cheap aftershave. (Sometimes, Pineau would forget to rinse the Aqua Velva from a needle and would “taste” the aftershave with his first hit; research suggests he likely smelled volatile compounds being eliminated through his respiratory system.)

“That was our idea of harm reduction,” he says.

Sandy Hill Community Health Centre plans injection-site consultations in April

The Sandy Hill Community Health Centre is planning to consult the public this spring about adding a safe-injection site to its building at Rideau and Nelson streets, says the man who runs the Centre’s drug-treatment programs.

“We’re basically on the same path as Toronto,” Rob Boyd said Monday morning following the news that Toronto’s board of health is going to consider three specific sites — two at community health centres and one run by Toronto’s public-health unit itself.

“We are planning on beginning our own consultations, probably in the month of April,” said Boyd. “(They’ll take place) over about six weeks, to allow as much access as possible.”

Jim Watson has always been against such a site and doesn’t care to discuss it, thank you. “Mayor Watson’s position on supervised injection sites has not changed. Mayor Watson prefers to see a continued focus on investment in treatment programs,” wrote his press secretary Livia Belcea in an email on Monday. “Mayor Watson will be unavailable to comment further in the upcoming days.”

That’s unfortunate but not the end of anything, said Boyd, who runs a needle exchange, a methadone and suboxone clinic, and other services for people with HIV or hepatitis C. Adding a small safe-injection facility to a health centre that already does all these things would improve people’s health and probably nobody outside the clinic would notice, he said. “This is really core stuff with us.”

Ottawa health centre plans injection-site consultations despite opposition from mayor

Mayor Jim Watson is refusing to soften his rock-hard stance against supervised injection sites in Ottawa, despite one group's plans to hold consultations on the controversial model in Sandy Hill next month.

Toronto is the latest city after Montreal to officially explore supervised injection sites, with its chief medical officer of health outlining his recommendations Monday for three possible locations.

The sites let users bring their own drugs to inject themselves under the supervision of health professionals to prevent overdoses and infection from unsterilized equipment. They also include treatment programs for users who wish get help with addiction and take people who are shooting up off the street.

Watson has been vehemently opposed to bringing the model to Ottawa, in spite of its documented success at Vancouver’s InSite, which says on its website there have been no overdose deaths there since it opened in 2013 and there has been a 35 per cent reduction in overdoses in the surrounding area.

“Mayor Watson’s position on supervised injection sites has not changed. Mayor Watson prefers to see a continued focus on investment in treatment programs,” wrote his press secretary Livia Belcea in an email on Monday.

His opposition comes as overdoses in the city continue to rise.

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