Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Plea for Harper & Clement to Follow the Route of Good, Solid, Scientifically Supported Public Health Policy

From today's National Post:

Harper urged to save safe injection site
Vancouver Addicts; Insite's operating permit expires on June 30

Meagan Fitzpatrick, Canwest News Service

OTTAWA - Supporters of Vancouver's supervised drug injection site were in Ottawa yesterday asking Stephen Harper to put politics aside and keep Insite open.

The facility is legally allowed to operate because the federal government granted it an exemption from narcotics laws. That exemption is due to expire on June 30, and the government has not indicated whether the facility will be allowed to continue operating.

"At this juncture, we believe [Mr.] Harper has a clear decision to make -- is he going to go the route of ideology or is he going to go the route of good, solid, scientifically supported public health policy?" said Liz Evans, who runs Insite in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health. "We believe that is his decision that he has to make today, to take it out of the realm of politics and put it in the realm of public health, which is firmly where it belongs."

A recent report by a government-appointed expert advisory panel said the controversial site in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside doesn't affect crime rates, saves at least one life a year from overdose, provides nursing services to users, is generally supported by the public and has increased the use of treatment services.

Ms. Evans, joined at a news conference on Parliament Hill by members of the Canadian Association for Nurses in AIDS Care (CANAC), said enough research and studies have been done to prove that harm-reduction strategies, such as safe injection sites, are effective and worthwhile.

Insite has its critics, including the Canadian Police Association, but Ms. Evans said the facility has virtually everyone on side and just needs the approval, not even funding, from the federal government.

"Please listen to the nurses that are here today and do the right thing. We are begging the Prime Minister to make a decision that's right for the people of British Columbia, and for Canada," Ms. Evans said.

Health Minister Tony Clement, the minister responsible for Insite, was not available for an interview, but his office provided a statement saying, "We are carefully reviewing the research.… No decision has been made."

Mr. Clement's office did not provide a response to CANAC's criticism that the government's anti-drug strategy, announced in 2007, failed to include support for harm reduction.
The anti-drug plan involves preventing illegal drug use, treating addicts and going after drug producers and dealers, but harm reduction is the missing link among those approaches, CANAC said.

"People who use drugs need to be given options and those options include harm reduction, and they also include treatment," said Greg Riehl, CANAC president. "If we don't have harm reduction, if we don't have Insite, those people will be dead. Dead people cannot enter into treatment."

Ottawa was put under pressure last month when the UN drug control board warned Canada is flouting treaties aimed at curbing illegal drugs. A report from the International Narcotics Control Board said Insite contravenes a 1961 treaty signed by Canada that says countries should pass laws ensuring drugs are used only for medical or scientific purposes.

1 comment:

L-girl said...

Jen, I just saw the good news on the court decision. Let me know if you'd like me to post anything at wmtc.

I guess I should tell you this through Facebook, eh?