Drug overdose deaths can be curbed with compassion

Lives can be saved by reducing the stigma around drug overdose and making an overdose-reversing drug more readily available, according to people at a rally in downtown Ottawa Friday.

The rally, held before Sunday’s International Overdose Awareness Day, commemorated 32 people killed by drug overdoses in Ottawa over the last year by laying out 32 pairs of shoes on the Human Rights Monument.

Combatting overdose in the capital

The man’s face was purple. The whites of his eyes stared out, the pupils rolled back into his head. He was sweating profusely, his tongue hanging from his mouth.

When Sean LeBlanc opened the door to the rooming house hallway last summer, it was clear to the former addict what was happening.

“It was an opiate overdose,” he said. “I’d seen it before.”

LeBlanc sprang into action. He grabbed a naloxone kit — a device similar to an EpiPen — and injected the life-saving antidote into his friend’s shoulder.

It took less than 15 seconds for LeBlanc to empty the tiny vial and remove the retractable safety needle.

“Thanks to the naloxone training I could bring him back.”

He’s one of 93 people who have gone through Ottawa Public Health’s Peer Overdose Prevention Program (POPP) — one of the free harm reduction strategies available in the capital. It launched two years ago to coincide with the annual International Overdose Awareness Day, marked in Ottawa Friday at the Human Rights Monument at 11:30 a.m.

Overdose Awareness Day 2014

Overdose Awareness Day 2014

International Overdose Awareness Day aims to raise awareness of drug overdose and eradicate the stigma attached to drug use. Overdoses are preventable!

On August 29th at 11:30am the Ottawa community will gather at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street to mark International Overdose Awareness Day and commemorate those who have been affected by overdose.

This year’s event will explore the stigma faced by people who use drugs and their families, and will include guest speakers with lived experience.

Supporters of the Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites will gather at 10:15am at the corner of Cumberland and Clarence in the ByWard Market. Together we'll walk to the Human Rights Monument in order to raise awareness that safer consumption sites can save lives and reduce overdose deaths in our community.

Please join us and add your support as we walk to this important event.

Workshop at the Peoples' Social Forum 2014

CSCS and DUAL will co-host a workshop on grassroots organizing for supervised consumption sites at the 2014 Peoples’ Social Forum in Ottawa.

Time: Friday August 22 2014, 4:30-6pm
Location: R
oom 323 of Tabaret Hall, University of Ottawa

The Peoples’ Social Forum will be a key place to mobilize groups from various communities that advocate for the opening of safer consumptions sites for people who use drugs. In this workshop, we will share our experiences and strategize on how to push for safer consumption services across Canada.

The success of Insite in Vancouver BC, as well as the Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2011 to keep it open, should have led to the opening of more of these life saving services in other Canadian cities. Yet the moralization of safer consumption, and harm reduction services more broadly, continues to be an impediment to opening more legally sanctioned sites almost 3 years after the SCC decision. In this workshop, CSCS and DUAL will collaborate with other people organizing to open safer consumption sites and strategize on how to provide a diverse array of harm reduction services, which are accessible to everyone.

Ottawa safe injection site could work—if it overcomes ideology

It’s become something of a tradition in recent years. Yet another study presents evidence supporting supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users, and our elected officials respond with heroic efforts to ignore it.

The latest one from Simon Fraser University, published in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy, makes a pocketbook argument for two such facilities in Ottawa and thus might be expected to appeal to our conspicuously frugal mayor.

Another reason to support supervised injection sites - Ottawa Citizen Editorial

To those still unmoved by the proven harm-reduction benefits of supervised drug injection sites, perhaps the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy will have more appeal: the sites could actually save taxpayer dollars. The research provides yet another reason to support a proposed clinic here in Ottawa and others elsewhere.

In his peer-reviewed paper, Simon Fraser University’s Ehsan Jozaghi suggests health-care savings of $5 million — a number associated with the prevention of an estimated nine HIV infections and 88 hepatitis C infections from dirty needles — would more than make up for the $4-million cost of operating two Ottawa clinics. In fact, he argues, the savings would probably be higher because the clinics would also reduce other infection rates and overdose deaths.

'Safe site' backers point to potential tax savings

Advocates of government-sanctioned injection sites for drug users have a new argument for opening such facilities in Ottawa: a potential saving to taxpayers of at least $1 million a year.

The figure appears in a study published this week that compares the estimated cost of operating two medically supervised injection sites with the health care savings of averting nine HIV infections and 88 hepatitis C infections drug users could otherwise get from sharing dirty needles.

Lead researcher Ehsan Jozaghi of Simon Fraser University said in an interview Tuesday that the findings present “strong arguments for having these facilities in Ottawa to prevent HIV and hepatitis C infections, which cost the health care system millions of dollars a year.”

Another study calls for supervised injection sites in Ottawa

Another group of researchers has concluded Ottawa should have supervised injection sites.

A study by researchers at Simon Fraser University published in the online journal Substance Abuse, Treatment, Prevention and Policy says establishing supervised injection sites in Ottawa would be a “fiscally responsible harm reduction strategy” for preventing the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.

The study compares the cost of running a supervised injection site in Ottawa — researchers put the annual cost at $2.2 million, based on Insite in Vancouver — with treating people through the healthcare system.

Municipal election lobbying campaign

The Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites in Ottawa is looking for your help to lobby candidates in the upcoming Ottawa municipal election. 

In the next few weeks organizers will be finalizing lobby kits for distribution to candidates in each riding. Our goal is to ensure that candidates are educated on the evidence in support of harm reduction practices and the need for safer consumption sites in the city of Ottawa.

This is a great and easy opportunity to stay involved in the fight for safe consumption in Ottawa! Here's how:

1. Send your full name, email address, and riding name to info@cscsottawa.ca. If you do not know your riding please find it here. CSCS organizers will keep track of people who wish to lobby the candidates in their riding in order to distribute the kits, record meeting results, and keep everyone updated on upcoming events that CSCS members would like to have a presence at leading up to the election on Oct. 27, 2014;

2. Keep us posted on the results of your contact with candidates. This way we can track who we've contacted, what the results were, and who might be potential allies following the election. 

Study finds supervised injection sites in Ottawa to be a fiscally responsible harm reduction strategy

A new study has found that supervised injection sites are a fiscally responsible strategy for reducing the spread of HIV and hepatitis C in Ottawa.

The report from researchers at Simon Fraser University recommends the establishment of two supervised injection facilities (SIFs) as an "efficient and effective use of financial resources in the public health domain."

According to the report, these facilities would avert 9 HIV infections and 88 hepatitis C infections each year in Ottawa. This would result in public health care savings of nearly $5 million. The cost of operating the two sites is estimated at $4 million.

The peer-reviewed study is published in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy.

"The local health officials, not the federal or provincial government, should make decisions regarding opening SIFs, based on the positive impact of SIFs in reducing injections in public, while lowering the overdose fatalities and infectious diseases," reads the report.

In reviewing the evidence from Insite, Canada's first supervised injection site in Vancouver, the study concludes that the facility has not increased crime, drug dealing, public injection, or public syringe disposal in the community.

The report echoes recommendations from a 2012 University of Toronto study, which also advised the creation of two supervised injection sites in Ottawa to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The Supervised Consumption Assessment Study found that Ottawa has Ontario's highest rate of new HIV infection amongst injection drug users.

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