Montreal will soon be home to four supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users.

While the service is expected to cost $2.7 million annually, the Public Health Department said the health care system will ultimately come out the winner.

Richard Massé, the director of Montreal Public Health, argues that while the the experiment may seem expensive, the quality of life will improve for the people who live near the sites, and for the drug users.

Massé said the social gains will surpass the cost if people consider the complications associated with injection drug use — hepatitis C, HIV and overdoses, among others — and the risk of contamination associated with dirty needles left lying around.

"You gain more with these services than leaving people to deal with their health problems, not to mention the social costs for the population living nearby," said Massé.

An additional $3.2 million will be needed to launch the service, buy equipment and renovate the designated spaces.

Massé said, according to a study commissioned by the city’s public health office, the service would pay for itself after four years.

The idea is not new — similar centres already exist in Vancouver and several Montreal-based organizations, particularly Cactus, have been lobbying for them for years. 

The Montreal health network will support community organizations that are already working with the target clientele. Three permanent centres, each with an injection room supervised by a nurse, will be implemented. A fourth, mobile centre will work to reach people in other areas that are particularly affected by intravenous drug use.

Massé said personnel won't administer injections and no drugs will be sold on site. However, medical services will be available in case of an overdose.

Montreal Public Health officials said they also hope that the supervised injection sites will encourage some drug users to eventually seek detox services.