Victoria mayor wants 'drug consumption sites'

By Heretic.Ape. · Jun 30, 2007 · ·
  1. Heretic.Ape.
    VICTORIA -- Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe is applying for an exemption to Canada's drug laws to operate three supervised drug consumption sites, based on a report released Tuesday that the city's addicts need urgent help.

    "We must do something to improve the current situation and we cannot wait any longer," lead researcher Benedikt Fischer, of the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., said at a press conference. "It should have happened yesterday."

    The city will submit an application to Health Canada by December to operate for three years, as a research project, multiple sites where addicts can under supervision not only shoot up, but possibly smoke and swallow drugs.

    "We need to move forward with this to look at public order on the streets and see how we can reach those most vulnerable on the street," Lowe said.

    One site would be downtown with the other two yet to be decided.

    Greater Victoria is home to an estimated 2,000 injection drug users and hundreds more pill poppers, crack smokers and crystal meth addicts.

    The consumption sites are expected to prevent overdose deaths, slow the spread of infectious disease, and curtail hospital emergency visits. They would cost an estimated $1.2 million a year to operate.

    Share This Article


  1. Heretic.Ape.

    Site won't achieve it goals, however, without comprehensive support system, says study's lead author

    There's an excellent chance that a safe-consumption site in Victoria would improve the health of the city's addict population, reduce the spread of HIV and help at least some IV drug users kick the habit.

    But none of that will happen unless the Vancouver Island Health Authority provides a comprehensive support system of addiction treatment and counselling services.

    Those were the two main findings of a year-long study on the feasibility of a safe-consumption site in the City of Victoria that was released Tuesday at City Hall.

    Authored by Dr. Benedikt Fischer, the 80-page report recommends that Victoria pursue a decentralized model consisting of one large and two smaller safe consumption sites catering to not only IV drug users, but crystal methamphetamine and crack addicts as well.

    However, Fischer's report identified "acute gaps" in available addiction treatment services in Victoria that would have to be filled to ensure the success of a safe consumption site.

    "There's no sense in doing this if the people who want to access addiction treatment can't get it," Fischer said during a press conference Tuesday at city hall. "It doesn't make any sense to tell these people 'please come back in three months.' In fact, it doesn't make a lot of sense to tell them to come back in 48 hours."

    Fischer said the biggest gaps exist in the area of "residential and long-term addiction care" and stressed that Victoria needs wide scope of services to address various levels of need.

    VIHA medical health officer Dr. Murray Fyfe, expressed concern about gaps in treatment services but said that VIHA has made efforts to improve services in recent years.

    Decisions on any additional services will have to wait until board members and the Ministry of Health have had a chance to review the report, Fyfe added.

    "This report needs to go through an appropriate process before making any decisions on what services we can support," Fyfe said.

    The release of the $60,000 study -- VIHA covered $50,000 of the cost while the city paid the rest -- sets the stage for Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe to apply for an exemption under Section 56 of the Controlled Drug and Substance Act, the same legal exemption that paved the way for InSite, Vancouver's safe-consumption-site pilot project.

    However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it clear during a visit to Victoria last year his government will not support any more safe-consumption sites until research can show the Vancouver model is working.

    Fischer's report notes that some European consumption sites operated covertly for years before gaining legal approval.

    Neither Lowe nor Fyfe would speculate on how they might move forward should the Harper government refuse the exemption.

    Fyfe said the safe-consumption site would likely include space for a needle-exchange service to replace the one currently run by AIDS Vancouver Island on Cormorant Street.

    Fischer's report estimates it would cost about $1.2 million a year to operate the three sites.

    Victoria Deputy Police Chief Bill Naughton said a safe-consumption site would take much of the visible drug activity off local streets and put it in a controlled setting. Such a facility would also provide police with a much-needed place to take addicts they regularly roust from doorways and downtown alleys.

    "When you tell a guy sleeping in a doorway to move along, the first thing they'll say is 'Well, where do you want me to go?'" Naughton said. "You need a good answer to that question."
To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!