'The real work has gotta start now': Sask.'s first safe drug consumption site approved

Saskatchewan's first safe consumption site for people who use drugs will open next year.

Health Canada approves AIDS Saskatoon to run site

A drug user prepares to inject himself at Vancouver's safe injection site. Saskatchewan's first site will open next year in Saskatoon. Officials say it will help combat the HIV, crystal meth and opiod epidemics. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

One advocate is welcoming the decision to approve Saskatchewan's first safe drug consumption site.

"We are very excited about this, but we always get that sombre reminder of why it's needed. It feels quite good but the real work has gotta start now," Mercredi said.

Mercredi said AIDS Saskatoon has received approval from Health Canada to operate a "safe consumption site." The site would offer a safe place for people to use drugs via injection or other methods.

AIDS Saskatoon officials say it will be a key factor in combating the crystal meth, opioid and HIV epidemics.

AIDS Saskatoon executive director Jason Mercredi is relieved to hear their plans for a safe drug consumption site have been approved. He says it will save lives and take some of the drug use off the streets. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Mercredi said drug use is already happening in Saskatoon parks, playgrounds and alleyways. The safe consumption site would bring much of that activity under a controlled setting. They could serve up to 250 people per day, he said.

He said the goal is to introduce people to other programs and services, and help them quit drugs.

"We want to get them into a place where we can engage them," he said.

Saskatoon Police Service and AIDS Saskatoon are travelling to British Columbia next week to learn from existing service providers there, according to the release.

The project will begin some time next year. Agencies say that will give them time to set up and provide efficient and effective service.

AIDS Saskatoon officials say they're committed to being a responsible community organization. They plan to conduct monthly community garbage and needle pickups for the surrounding area, as well as continuing the daily needle patrols on school grounds.

A formal complaints process is being developed with clear timelines established to respond to matters as they arise, according to the release.