Saturday, September 02, 2006

Temporary Reprieve--Watch this space!

YAY! Insite has been given a reprieve of 16 months (Curious mandate for research on crime prevention--more on this later...)

Anyways, this site is ready to go--I'll keep compiling interesting info about this issue and in 12- 15 months start the drive to lobby folks again.

Here's the news from CBC:

B.C. injection site to continue operating, for now
Last Updated Fri, 01 Sep 2006 21:31:48 EDT
CBC News
Federal Health Minister Tony Clement announced Friday his department wouldn't give another three-year exemption to Vancouver's safe-injection site for heroin addicts, adding that the site will remain open until a decision is made by the end of 2007.

Insite will stay open until at least the end of 2007. (CBC)

Clement said in a statement that before a decision is made, additional studies will be conducted into how supervised injection sites affect crime prevention and treatment .

"Do safe injection sites contribute to lowering drug use and fighting addiction? Right now the only thing the research to date has proven conclusively is drug addicts need more help to get off drugs," Clement said.

"Given the need for more facts, I am unable to approve the current request to extend the Vancouver site for another three and a half years."

Intensive campaign
North America's only safe-injection site opened its doors in the Downtown Eastside in September 2003. It was established in Vancouver following a intensive campaign for a safe, clean place for the estimated 5,000 injection drug users in the neighbourhood, an area with above average HIV and hepatitis C infection rates.

Health Canada gave the clinic a three-year operating exemption under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The B.C. government provided $1.2 million to get started and provides operating funding through Vancouver Coastal Health.

The exemption was set to expire on Sept. 12.

The impending deadline has resulted in a number of declarations for and against the site in recent weeks.

Last week, former city mayors Mike Harcourt, Philip Owen and Senator Larry Campbell released a joint statement in support of keeping the Insite clinic, saying that it made sense both scientifically and financially.

Current Mayor Sam Sullivan and Premier Gordon Campbell, a former Vancouver mayor, have previously spoken out in support of the clinic.

Police have mixed reaction
The reaction from the law enforcement community has been mixed. In May, Vancouver Police Insp. Larry Thompson credited the clinic for its interventions and said the department was in favour of another exemption.

But on Friday, Tony Cannavino, the president of the Canadian Police Association, said the group, which represents 54,000 members, voted unanimously on a motion to press Ottawa to stop financing Vancouver's safe-injection site and invest in a national drug strategy instead.

As well, the province's RCMP spokesman this week said the site was problematic.

"We only support an injection site that would have as its approach the four pillars strategy, and that of course is harm reduction, education, prevention and enforcement. Does this particular program have those four pillars? It doesn't at this point," said Staff-Sgt. John Ward.
Report contradicts critics

That statement came despite a report from two criminologists commissioned by the RCMP, Ray Corrado of Simon Fraser University and Irwin Cohen of University College of the Fraser Valley.

"The main argument for those against supervised injection sites would be that it would bring crime to the area, that it would increase the use of drugs, that it would actually encourage people who don't use drugs to begin to use drugs," said Cohen. "And none of that has been borne out by the research anywhere." However, Cohen noted that the site is not yet attracting enough users, adding that the vast majority of addicts in the area are still injecting drugs somewhere else.

Statistics compiled by the clinic over a two-year period ending March 31 show there was an average of 607 visits a day to the clinic, and that 453 addicts overdosed at the clinic — but with no deaths because of the trained staff. There were also 4,083 counselling referrals during the two-year period, including about 1,600 referrals to addiction counselling.

Some city activists have vowed they would keep running a site even if the federal government withdraws its support.

Clement also said in his statement that Ottawa is planning to launch a new national drug strategy.

"We believe the best form of harm reduction is to help addicts to break the cycle of dependency," Clement said. "We also need better education and prevention to ensure Canadians don't get addicted to drugs in the first place."

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