Opinion survey confirms support for supervised consumption site in Ottawa

On online survey conducted by the Ottawa Sun has found that a majority of respondents believe that Ottawa should have a supervised injection site for people who use drugs.

The survey, which was published on the daily newspaper's website from September 30 to October 5, 2013, posed 9 questions on readers' opinions toward supervised injection services and their effects on the community.

Of the 1,794 people who responded, 56% indicated that Ottawa should open a site, while 51% said that they would accept a site in their own neighbourhood. 58% said that they believed such a site would either not impact or increase the safety and well-being of the surrounding area. (Full results here.)

The survey confirms the findings of other such studies on public opinion towards supervised consumption sites.

The 2012 Toronto and Ottawa Supervised Consumption Assessment study found that 56% of Ontario residents strongly agreed that supervised injection facilities should be available to people who inject drugs, if it can be shown that supervised injection facilities reduce neighbourhood problems related to injection drug use.

Earlier this year, CSCS Ottawa's canvass of nearly 200 residents and businesses in Ottawa's Lowertown and ByWard Market discovered that over 70% of people who live and work in the neighbourhood support the creation of supervised consumption services.

These results reflect a widespread belief in the benefits to community health and safety reported by studies of Insite in Vancouver, Canada's first supervised injection site. The Supreme Court affirmed in 2011 that Insite reduces the harms of drug use in the neighbourhood by decreasing public drug use, reducing drug litter, and connecting drug users with treatment services. At the same time, the site provides a necessary health service to people who use drugs, reducing HIV transmission and overdose deaths.

The right of universal access to health care is a deeply held Canadian principle. Deciding which groups of people are granted or denied access to necessary health care services cannot be a matter for public referendum.

Health care officials and political leaders should take heed of the public support for supervised consumption sites. However, the decision to open these services in Ottawa should ultimately be based on their demonstrated benefit to the health of people who use drugs and to the public safety and well-being of the broader community.

It's time for action for supervised consumption sites in Ottawa, to save lives and get drug use off the streets.