First International Harm Reduction Day

On May 7th, 2014, the Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites joins in the celebration of the first International Harm Reduction Day. International Harm Reduction Day is a day to promote evidence-based public health policies and practices and access to these services as a human right. Health services, including a wide variety of harm reduction services, are still not easily accessible throughout the world. To mark International Harm Reduction Day, we bring attention to the need for more accessible harm reduction services worldwide, and to Ottawa’s needs in particular. 

According to Harm Reduction International, ‘Harm Reduction’ refers to policies, programs and practices that aim primarily to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of the use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs, without necessarily reducing drug consumption. Harm reduction benefits the entire community by reducing the spread of diseases, preventing overdose deaths and providing human rights services to everyone. Safer consumption sites in particular also benefit the community by reducing occurrences of public drug consumption and discarded drug equipment.

Unfortunately, Ottawa still does not have a safer consumption site. While the Community Health Centres, Ottawa Public Health and a variety of social service agencies do provide an assortment of necessary harm reduction services, ranging from new needles and pipes to work opportunities for people who use illegal drugs, a safer consumption site is an essential part of the spectrum of harm reduction services. 

Ottawa has Ontario’s highest rate of new HIV infection among injection drug users. 11% of people who inject drugs in Ottawa are infected with HIV, while 60% have contracted Hepatitis C. Someone dies of drug overdose every 10 days in our city. Safer consumption sites are a proven measure of addressing the health crisis that Ottawa is currently facing. 

In support of International Harm Reduction Day, the Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites calls on health and social service providers to join us in advocating for the creation of a safer consumption site in Ottawa.