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Canada Extends Exemption For Supervised Drug-Injection Facility

Armen Hareyan's picture

Supervised Drug-Injection Facility

Health Canada,the country's health ministry, on Tuesday announced it would extenduntil June 2008 an exemption from Canada's drug law to allow thesupervised drug-injection facility Insite in Vancouver to remain open, Reuters reports. The facility is the only sanctioned site for injection drug users in North America (Dowd, Reuters, 10/2).

Thesite, which is funded by the provincial government and has receivedresearch funding from the Canadian government, includes 12 booths forIDUs to inject drugs as well as a "chill-out" room, in which users canbe monitored for overdoses. At the site, drug users receive cleanneedles, tourniquets, water and cotton balls, and a nurse supervisesdrug users' activities and provides them with referrals to detoxcenters and homeless shelters. Vancouver has one of the highest illegaldrug use rates in North America, with as many as 12,000 IDUs in theVancouver metropolitan area, 30% of whom are HIV-positive and 90% ofwhom have hepatitis C (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/6/06).

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Thefacility, which opened in September 2003, received a three-yearexemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to conduct apilot study on the site's role in reducing drug use and crime inVancouver's Downtown Eastside, CP/CNews reports.The act bans heroin use. Health Minister Tony Clement last year said hecould not approve a request to extend the program for anotherthree-and-a-half years. However, he granted an extension for the siteto remain open until the end of 2007 to conduct further research.Jirina Vlk, acting head of communications for Health Canada, said themost recent extension is for the "purposes of research into the impactof such sites on prevention, treatment and crime."

Research, Reaction

According to the CP/CNews,several studies conducted about Insite since its inception have shownthat IDUs who participate in the program are more likely to registerfor detoxification programs, more likely to start methadone replacementprograms and decrease their number of monthly visits to the facility toinject drugs.

Mark Townsend of the Portland Hotel Society, whichruns Insite, called Clement's announcement a distraction from the realproblems facing IDUs in the city. "We've got people that are sick,people that are dying, mentally ill people living in crummy hotels," hesaid, adding that the Prime Minister Stephen Harper "is out theretrying to find a researcher that will tell him the world is flat, sohe's got an excuse to cut" the program (Levitz, CP/CNews,10/2). "This is the second time that the federal government has stalledon this decision and said that more research is needed," RichardElliott, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network,said, adding, "But the fact is, Minister Clement is asking questionsthat have already been answered and calling for research that's alreadybeen done" (Reuters, 10/2).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . TheKaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service ofThe Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.