Saturday, October 14, 2006

From the Vancouver Sun, Oct 7, 2006

Injection site could save millions: report
A few small sites in Victoria could prevent seven overdose deaths a year, report says

Cindy E. Harnett and Rob Shaw, Times ColonistPublished: Saturday, October 07, 2006

A supervised drug injection site in Victoria would cost $1.2 million to operate, save up to $3 million in health-care costs, and prevent the need for 3,000 hospital visits each year, according to a document obtained by the Times Colonist, the first of two studies to be used to apply in the spring for a downtown pilot project.

Based on about 2,000 intravenous drug users, the creation of a few small safe injection sites could prevent seven overdose deaths annually, divert more than 1,110 emergency room visits for a savings of $444,000, and reduce hospital admissions by 2,000 for a savings of $2.4 million, according to the document obtained through a freedom of information request.

Vancouver Island Health Authority's chief medical health officer Richard Stanwick details the savings in what he calls a "very preliminary" business case to be bolstered by a comprehensive study underway at the Centre for Addictions Research B.C., led by illicit drug researcher Benedikt Fischer.

It is that study that will form the basis of an application to Health Canada in early spring for an exemption to Canada's drug laws to run a pilot research project here, said Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe.

Health Canada put off making a final decision on whether to extend for another 31/2 years Vancouver's supervised injection site called Insite, in early September. Health Minister Tony Clement said at the time additional studies must be conducted into the impact of supervised injection sites.

Victoria's mayor says that tells him the government needs to be convinced of the case for supervised injection sites but he is not overly discouraged by the government's unwillingness to embrace the concept.

"I'm hoping a research project of this kind would give the government more information, the kind of information it needs," Lowe said, in an interview.

If Victoria goes forward with the application, as is the plan, it will likely be for the establishment of more than one drug injection site in downtown Victoria, said Fischer.

Clement had only one big location -- Insite, located in Vancouver's Downtown East Side -- to consider, said Fischer. There have been problems with that site given the high concentration of drug users in the area.

Victoria would propose "something very very different" and therefore its operation could be "attractive to Ottawa" to provide valuable research information for other cities across Canada, Fischer said. Montreal and Toronto are also interested in supervised injection sites.

While the federal Conservative government has not embraced supervised injection sites, "I also know Clement is quite open to the principles of public health,"Fischer said.

The health-care case includes a reduction in overdose deaths, HIV/AIDs and hepatitis C infection and transmission, and the threat of dirty abandoned needles.

Supervised injection sites are part of a broad harm-reduction strategy including a range health, addiction, treatment and social services.

A supervised injection site "will protect our citizens as well as the addicts -- we have to realize these people are sick," Lowe said. "If someone has cancer we want to find treatment. We have to treat drug addiction in the same manner."
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2006

Retrieved from: Oct. 14th, 2006

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