Ottawa's health board backs supervised injection sites

Ottawa’s board of health voted 9-2 Monday night to encourage supervised-injection sites to open in the city.

“Listen to, more than anything, the people who live this,” Capital Coun. David Chernushenko told skeptics. He’d come into the health-board meeting not knowing how much he didn’t know about addiction, and treatment, and what it’s like to be a drug addict, he said.

The board heard from several, all begging the board to say it supports the notion of opening supervised facilities where addicts can inject drugs in the presence of nurses who can rescue them from overdoses. People like Darren Noftall, twitchy, tense, out of place at the formal table in city hall’s committee room, who said his life had been saved twice at Vancouver’s Insite. He overdosed at Canada’s first safe-injection site and the nurses saved him.

He left Vancouver, thinking he’d be better at home in Ontario. It hasn’t worked out that way yet.

“I live alone. I use alone. That puts me at high risk to die alone,” he said. “When I go home, I’m going to do that hit tonight, I don’t know if I’m going to be alive in the morning.”

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Supervised injection site up for debate Monday at Ottawa health board meeting

Ray Harrison has seen people shoot up using water from toilets and puddles.

He's pulled friends who were overdosing in the street to a phone booth to call 911, so they wouldn't be tracked by police.

Now Harrison — a former drug user himself who says he's been clean since the New Year's Day 2014 — says it's time for Ottawa to open a supervised injection site.

He believes they will help prevent people from spreading disease and give them a reason to access health care services, which could start them on a road to breaking their addictions.

"You need to be able to start somewhere and not necessarily when you hit rock bottom, when you get incarcerated," Harrison told CBC News ahead of tonight's Ottawa Board of Health meeting.

The city's medical officer of health, Dr. Isra Levy, is expected to make his case at that meeting for why Ottawa should have supervised injection sites, and why Ottawa Public Health should support agencies that propose to set them up.

Community health centres will be at tonight's Ottawa Board of Health meeting to offer Levy their full support, and Harrison is planning to be there, too.

"I think the safer injection site will save a lot of people, and the community, a lot of grief; along with the police [since] they're not having to chase these people down in somebody's backyard," Harrison said.

Downtown Ottawa councillor welcomes safe injection site

An Ottawa councillor says he welcomes a safe injection site downtown – but only if there are similar services across the city.

On Monday, Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury, and five other councillors on the board of health, will debate a staff report that recommends opening a supervised injection site in the city.

Given that the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre has already consulted on its plan to provide such a service, a safe injection site will likely go in his ward.

“I can support a model that is holistic, that makes sense, that supports a drug user in their community, and if that means they’re in my community, for sure,” said Fleury.

Don't deny the benefits of supervised injection sites

The experts have all weighed in: Ottawa is teetering on the precipice of an overdose crisis. Supervised injection sites can save the lives of some of the people at risk.

The city’s health unit and chief medical officer now say they support a safe-injection site. Six city councillors who sit on the health board are all open to the prospect, which they’ll debate Monday.

Now it’s time for the mayor and police chief to rethink their position.

Sandy Hill not only neighbourhood centre looking at offering supervised injection

Not one but four community health centres in Ottawa are looking at the idea of offering supervised injection services to drug addicts.

The Sandy Hill Community Health Centre is currently looking to set up a supervised injection site, the city's first such service, at its Nelson Street location.

The health centre's board could start a process next week to ask for a federal exemption so its staff and clients wouldn't be charged with possessing an illegal substance.

But the Carlington, Centretown and Somerset West community health centres are also exploring whether that makes sense for them too.

Somerset West executive director Jack McCarthy said the point of the preliminary investigations is to stop the spread of disease and prevent people from possibly overdosing in alleys or other secluded places.

Four Ottawa health centres plan safer injection sites

Three more Ottawa community health centres are making plans to open safe-injection sites for drug users, following the lead of the one that serves Sandy Hill.

The boards at the Somerset West and Centretown community health centres have voted to have their respective staffs figure out the logistics of adding a supervised facility for chronic users of hard drugs to use them in a clean place with trained staff ready to respond to overdoses.

That puts them behind (but not by much) the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre on Rideau Street, which has similar plans.

The Carlington Community Health Centre on Merivale Road is a step behind them. Its board supports the idea of safe-injection sites and is expected to vote in the fall on whether to closely examine prospects for opening one at its centre.

Looming drug-overdose crisis prompts Ottawa's health unit to back a safe injection site

The capital is on the brink of an injection-drug crisis, the city’s top public-health doctor believes, and now is the time to open a safe drug-injection site to try to head it off.

“In Ottawa, we are on the cusp of this larger trend, and we have dodged it because we have been lucky so far,” says Dr. Isra Levy, the city’s medical officer of health.

Monday night, after years of equivocating, his health unit released a report saying the city should have at least one supervised facility aimed at chronic users of injection drugs, where they can shoot up with clean needles and have nurses on hand to help if they overdose.

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi expresses support for Ottawa supervised injection site

Ontario’s new attorney general says Ottawa should heed the advice of its top doctor, who is publicly urging the city to support supervised injection sites.

In his first interview since Monday’s cabinet shuffle, Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi expressed support for the controversial sites as a means to reduce harm to drug addicts.

“I believe in evidence-based solutions,” Naqvi told Metro on Tuesday morning.

“If the officer of health is telling us that the evidence results in better care and ensuring people get the treatment and that we reduce the harm to the individual and to others through reducing the risk of the transfer of HIV and Hepatitis C, then we should pay close attention to that expert advice.”

Most back safer injection site in Ottawa, poll finds

More than half of Ottawans polled back a safe injection site downtown for intravenous drug users with the young, affluent and well educated most likely to be behind the plan.

The numbers are in line with results from Canada’s biggest city, where a drive is also underway to establish safe injection sites aimed at preventing overdoses and disease.

“There is clearly a sentiment in urban centres in favour of harm reduction over sanctions and enforcement,” Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff said. “Vancouver already has InSite, and Toronto and Ottawa are both contemplating similar centres. “These results bode well for a successful outcome.”

In a random sampling of 890 Ottawa voters, 54 per cent approved plans for a safe injection site, 37% disapproved and 9% did not have an opinion.

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