British Columbia

Opening a supervised injection site 'not a simple process': new guidelines aim to help

The BC Centre for Substance Use has published a new set of guidelines for opening and running a supervised injection site as the death toll continues to climb in the ongoing overdose crisis.

Find positions in the facility for people who use drugs, says expert

One recommendation is to include the peers of people who use drugs in the delivery of supervised injection services. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

With more supervised injections sites opening in B.C. and applications moving through the Health Canada approval process, the B.C. Centre for Substance Use has published a new set of guidelines for running these facilities.

Associate director Dr. Thomas Kerr says the guidelines are designed to help a health authority or other body seeking to open a facility, conduct planning, find a suitable location, staff it and develop policies.

"Opening a supervised injection site is not a simple process … when a city is opening a supervised injection site, they've usually had very little experience with them," Kerr told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

"We've really emphasized the great importance of engaging with the local network of people who use drugs and health services to do proper feasibility work to make sure this is a service people want to use and make sure it's designed in a way that's culturally appropriate."

Another point of emphasis, he said, is not just copying the Insite model. There are over 90 supervised injection sites around the world and some of them look very different and may better fit a particular local context.

Involve drug users

While the guidelines include options for groups considering opening a supervised injection site, they also include recommendations.

One concerns staffing: find positions in the facility for people who use drugs wherever possible. That insight came from feasibility work prior to the opening of Insite, Kerr said.

"What people told us over and over again is they had a strong preference for peers to work in a supervised injection site, that this would be a more comfortable, welcoming and safe environment," he said.

"Health Canada guidelines don't make it easy to include people who use drugs in the delivery of these services, but that's something that has been experimented with locally at the overdose prevention sites, and it's been a huge success. I think it's something we need to build on."

The guidelines also cover engaging with the larger community, which may oppose a facility. Kerr said that attitude is changing as deaths mount during the crisis.

You can view the guidelines here.

Listen to the full interview:

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast