Su­per­vised drug con­sump­tion site pro­posed for Drumheller In­sti­tu­tion

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Kyle Smylie The Drumheller Mail

A su­per­vised con­sump­tion site for il­licit drugs is be­ing con­sid­ered for the Drumheller In­sti­tu­tion by Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice Canada, the cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer union pres­i­dent says.

The pris­oner ser­vice is ex­plor­ing an over­dose pre­ven­tion pro­gram where in­mates would in­ject smug­gle nee­dle drugs un­der the su­per­vi­sion of med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, ex­pand­ing their drug harm-re­duc­tion mea­sures.

“The Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice of Canada (CSC) is still in the early stages of ex­plor­ing over­dose pre­ven­tion sites, as an­other harm re­duc­tion mea­sure avail­able to in­mates to man­age their health needs,” a spokesper­son said in a state­ment.

While the CSC did not con­firm if Drumheller was a pro­posed site, Ja­son Godin, pres­i­dent of the na­tional cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers union, con­firmed so and says they have lob­bied for years to “get nee­dles out of cells.”

“We’ve been ad­vo­cat­ing that nee­dle ex­change is not a cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer is­sue, it should be a health care is­sue. We have enough op­er­a­tional and se­cu­rity is­sues we don’t need to be re­spon­si­ble for some­thing that is quite frankly a health­care is­sue,” he said, adding the union “con­tin­ues to ad­vo­cate for 24-houra-day health care in our in­sti­tu­tions.”

Drumheller is the only pro­posed site for the pi­lot safe con­sump­tion pro­gram. Godin says Drumheller has the high­est rates of drug over­doses in the coun­try. There were 39 in­ci­dents of over­doses or sus­pected over­doses at the Drumheller In­sti­tu­tion from April 2015 to March 31, ac­cord­ing to num­bers pro­vided to the Mail by Cor­rec­tions Ser­vice Canada in November. The type of drug in­volved in each over­dose was not pro­vided.

“Cre­at­ing a drug-free en­vi­ron­ment to help of­fend­ers work to­wards re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and a suc­cess­ful re­turn to the com­mu­nity is of the ut­most im­por­tance for CSC and one that means greater pub­lic safety for all,” the ser­vice said in the state­ment.

The Drumheller In­sti­tu­tion and cor­rec­tional ser­vices con­tinue to grap­ple with their in­mates’ drug use. This month an in­sti­tu­tion civil­ian staff mem­ber was caught bring­ing metham­phetamine and quan­ti­ties of the cannabis prod­uct ‘shat­ter’ into the prison. Last year, an in­mate was caught bring­ing nearly 40 grams of car­fen­tanil into the in­sti­tu­tion.

The nee­dle ex­change pro­grams launched at other Cana­dian prisons is aimed at re­duc­ing the risk of in­mate ex­po­sure to HIV and hep­ati­tis C by pro­vid­ing them with ster­ile

sy­ringes. In­mates un­dergo a threat and risk as­sess­ment, and if ap­proved, the in­mate would be al­lowed to keep an in­jec­tion kit in their cell.

While the union is sup­port­ive of safe drug con­sump­tion sites, Godin says the union is “fun­da­men­tally against” the ex­ist­ing nee­dle ex­change pro­grams at five in­sti­tu­tions else­where in the coun­try, and he ad­mits it is un­clear what a safe con­sump­tion site will look like.

“There’s sup­posed to be in­tol­er­ance of drugs and cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers are frus­trated by be­ing put in this sit­u­a­tion. They want us to keep drugs out and at the same time we’re go­ing to hand out nee­dles and we’re go­ing to con­done drug use. We’re caught in a con­flict of in­ter­est, but it’s bet­ter to get nee­dles out of the cells,” Godin said, adding statis­tics sug­gest 79 per cent of in­mate over­doses oc­cur in­side cells.

Godin says the safe con­sump­tion pi­lot pro­gram has been dis­cussed and the ser­vice had is­sued an in­ter­nal re­lease, but there are still op­er­a­tional and in­fra­struc­ture is­sues to be ad­dressed.

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