Hamilton

The city wants your opinion on supervised injection sites

As the city considers supervised injection sites in Hamilton, local planners want your opinion about places where drug users can get high under medical supervision.

People who live or work in Hamilton can fill out online survey until Oct. 26

The city of Hamilton has launched an online survey, looking for opinions on supervised injection sites. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

As the city considers supervised injection sites in Hamilton, local planners want your opinion about places where drug users can get high under medical supervision.

It's an idea that has spurred much controversy in Canada, but is also rooted in research that shows harm reduction measures like this one can help save lives, reduce drug use, and improve public safety.

This week, the city launched an online survey of people who live and work in Hamilton about supervised injection sites (also known as safe injection sites).

It runs until Oct. 26, and you can fill it out right here.

"Survey feedback will help inform next steps as the city considers conducting a study to better understand the need in the community and whether [supervised injection sites] would be an effective service to support community and individual health in Hamilton," the city said in a news release.

At these sites, intravenous drug users can bring in their drugs, and are supplied with clean needles to inject them.

Nurses are also on site to monitor in case of overdose. This would both cut down on overdose deaths, officials say, (there are about 30 in Hamilton each year, and that number is a conservative estimate), as well as help with the spread of bloodborne pathogens.

This photo shows an injection kit that is used at a supervised injection facility in Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Officials say the site would also help eliminate used needles strewn around the city's dark corners and alleyways.

The project is still very much in its early stages. Last month, the board of health approved plans to begin exploring the viability of local safe injection sites through a study.

The approval of that study is contingent on a debate for the 2017 budget, as costs were a sticking point for some councillors.

It would cost $250,000 in next year's budget for the study. If approved, officials say would cost about $1 million to $1.5 million to set up a safe injection site.

Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jessica Hopkins told council that annual costs are more difficult to predict at this stage.

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If Hamilton eventually opens supervised injection sites, it will join Vancouver as one of two Canadian cities that offer the service, according to a staff report. Kamloops, B.C. also approved a supervised injection site this month.

Other cities, such as Toronto and Montreal, are looking at supervised injection sites but have yet to receive exemptions under the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

According a 15-year study of drug use in Vancouver's impoverished Downtown Eastside, harm reduction strategies like supervised injection sites have reduced illicit drug use and improved public safety.

The report by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS found that from 1996 to 2011, fewer people were using drugs and, of those who were, fewer were injecting drugs.

adam.carter@cbc.ca

About the Author

Adam Carter

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Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

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