A public health researcher is refuting a statement from Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien that a study looking at safe injection sites in Ottawa is being "held back" by the province of Ontario until after the municipal election.
O'Brien has called on researchers to release what he said was a provincially-funded report from the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto that he said was scheduled to be released in the spring of 2010.
O'Brien said people in Ottawa had a right to know the details of the report on safe injection sites for intravenous drug users, particularly if it leads to new locations being added to the city.
"Well I think it's way past suspicious that this report wasn't issued when it was supposed to early in the spring," said O'Brien on Wednesday morning. "I don't know why. I'd like that report issued now. And quite frankly I'm completely against public funding of crack houses, public funding of ... safe injection sites, completely against it."
University of Toronto's Dalla Lanna School of Public Health associate professor Dr. Carol Strike, one of two principal investigators on the study, said O'Brien's assertion that the study is done is incorrect. Strike said that the research has yet to be completed and the results likely won't be available until next year.
"We're not hiding anything, we're just not done," said Strike.
Province not directly involved in study
The province is also only indirectly involved in the study in that it funds the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, which in turn is funding the study. Provincial health officials said they are not involved in the study and said the claim they were somehow suppressing it was not accurate.
Dr. Strike said the study is looking at whether a supervised drug consumption site would reduce drug use, what residents think of the sites and, if a city chooses to have sites, what types of locations should be considered and how many.
But she stressed it's also possible the study may come out against safe injection sites.
O'Brien has supported other harm-reduction programs such as clean-needle exchanges, but fought against a program to provide free crack pipes with the aim of reducing the sharing of crack pipes that can spread HIV and hepatitis C.
Ottawa city council voted to discontinue a program to provide free crack pipes in 2007, but the Ontario government later agreed to fund the program after the city stopped supporting it.