Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health is poised to hold a news conference today where he will promote a new Board Report supporting safe injection services.
This development makes Toronto only the third Canadian city – which includes Montreal and Ottawa – to move towards opening facilities that will allow people to inject themselves with illicitly obtained drugs while under the supervision of nurses.
There are more than 90 such facilities around the world. Canada has only two legal safe injection sites. They are both located in Vancouver.
Although safe injection sites often face opposition from people living in the areas where they are located, proponents of such sites content that safe injection facilities cut down on the incidence of drug overdose deaths and are useful in helping addicts on the path to kicking off their addiction.
According to 2013 statistic, the rate of fatal overdose in Toronto is on the rise. Drug overdose deaths in the city in 2015 reached the record high of 206.
Legislation passed by the Conservative government last year has made it difficult for municipalities to open safe injection sites. The law requires cities seeking to open safe injection sites to go obtain permission from the federal government.
However, Toronto city councillor Jose Cressy was interviewed in the media saying he is optimistic about the city’s move because the Liberals have voiced support for safe injection sites in the past.
Legislation passed last year makes it hard to introduce these services. Cities that want safe injection sites must go through the federal government to get permission.
Toronto city councillor Joe Cressy says he’s not too worried about that step because the Liberals have already granted one such site permission and they’ve voiced their support for the sites in the past.
In an interview with the Canadian Press, Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi, a doctor at a downtown Toronto, hospital and expert in health services for drug users, said that safe injection sites can lessen the spread of HIV and hepatitis C infections, because the sites provide unused, clean needles.
The InSite safe injection site in Vancouver has received no less than 2 million visits since it opened in 2003. It has about 12,000 registered users and averages 1,028 visits per day.
According to InSite, from January 1 to December 31, 2012, there were:
- 376,149 visits to the site by 9,259 unique individuals
- An average of 1,028 visits per day
- 193,764 visits to the injection room
- An average of 529 injection room visits per day
- 497 overdose incidents
- 3,418 clinical treatment interventions
- 27 per cent of participants were women
- 17 per cent of participants were aboriginal
- Principle substances reported were heroin (51 per cent of instances), cocaine (22 per cent of instances) and methamphetamine (10 per cent)
- 4,564 referrals to other social and health services
- 488 discharges from Onsite detox
According to InSite, about half of the facility’s users are homeless or living in shelters, or have significant mental issues.
“Many of our clients are older and have been using drugs for a long time. Their long-term drug use and chaotic lives have seriously compromised their overall health,” A post on the organization’s Web site said. “Through Insite, clients develop trusting relationships with our health care and social workers, making them more likely to pursue withdrawal management (detox), addiction counselling and other addiction treatment services.”