Health Canada OKs con­sump­tion sites

Vancouver will get one new site, while Sur­rey gets two

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - VANCOUVER / NEWS - Jen st. de­nis

Health Canada is al­low­ing three ad­di­tional su­per­vised drug con­sump­tion sites to op­er­ate in the Lower Main­land — two in Sur­rey and one in Vancouver.

The move ful­fils a prom­ise from Jane Philpott, Canada’s fed­eral health min­is­ter, to sup­port and ex­pe­dite ap­pli­ca­tions to open more of the sites. At su­per­vised drug con­sump­tion sites, nurses are present as peo­ple take il­licit drugs and can as­sist in case of an over­dose as well as con­nect peo­ple to other health or so­cial ser­vices. In­site at 139 E. Hast­ings St., op­er­ated by Vancouver Coastal Health and the Port­land Ho­tel So­ci­ety, opened in 2003, while a su­per­vised con­sump­tion site at Vancouver’s Dr. Peter Cen­tre has op­er­ated since 2002.

Stephen Harper’s Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment at­tempted to shut In­Site down, but a Supreme Court de­ci­sion in 2011 or­dered the gov­ern­ment to ex­empt the clinic from pros­e­cu­tion for drug crimes. How­ever, a strict Con­ser­va­tive-era fed­eral law con­tin­ued to make open­ing new sites ex­tremely dif­fi­cult.

On May 18, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, now led by the Lib­er­als, passed a bill that stream­lines the process for open­ing a new su­per­vised drug con­sump­tion site.

“In­ter­na­tional and Cana­dian ev­i­dence shows that, when prop­erly es­tab­lished and main­tained, su­per­vised con­sump­tion sites save lives with­out in­creas­ing drug use or crime in the sur­round­ing area,” Health Canada said in a state­ment.

“The ev­i­dence also shows that they de­crease in­fec­tions and the trans­mis­sion of com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­ease, and can also de­crease the use of emer­gency de­part­ments, as well as hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions re­lated to in­jec­tion drug use.”

A deadly over­dose cri­sis, fu­elled by the pow­er­ful syn­thetic opi­oid fen­tanyl, is cur­rently killing four peo­ple ev­ery day in Bri­tish Columbia. The death toll has also started to climb in other Cana­dian prov­inces. In re­sponse, in De­cem­ber 2016 sev­eral health author­i­ties across B.C. started to open what they called over­dose preven­tion sites, where vol­un­teers or staff would be present to ad­min­is­ter first aid in case of an over­dose.

B.C.’s pro­vin­cial health of­fi­cer, Dr. Perry Ken­dall, said at the time he was con­fi­dent the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would not ob­ject.

Peo­ple gather out­side North Amer­ica’s first su­per­vised in­jec­tion site, In­site, lo­cated in the Down­town East­side.

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