Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay should have two safe injection sites, feasibility study recommends

The results of a study examining the feasibility of setting up safe injection sites in Thunder Bay shows that a majority of people who use drugs, as well as police, health care, and social service agencies support establishing two of these facilities in the northwestern Ontario city.

Next step to be public consultations on possible locations on north and south side of city

Dr. Thomas Kerr, a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia and the principal investigator of a study examining the feasibility of establishing supervised injection services in Thunder Bay, says the report suggest the Ontario city could benefit from two of these facilities. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

The results of a study examining the feasibility of setting up safe injection sites in Thunder Bay shows that a majority of people who use drugs, as well as police, health care, and social service agencies support establishing two of these facilities in the northwestern Ontario city.

"If you're someone who's angry about discarded syringes in your neighbourhood, tired of seeing people injecting in public places, then what you actually want is a supervised injection facility," said Dr. Thomas Kerr, a professor of medicince at the University of British Columbia and the study's principal investigator.

Supervised injection services create safer communities because they allow people to inject pre-obtained, illicit drugs under the direction of health care professionals, he said.

Reduces number of syringes in playgrounds, streets

"It will bring those people into a health care environment where they can get the help they need, and where they're not on the street injecting and leaving discarded syringes in streets and playgrounds," said Kerr.

Of the 200 drug users, who were interviewed for the study, 69 per cent would be willing to use a safe injection site, with a few conditions.

"The truth is people will not walk miles and miles and miles to use these facilities. They need to be close and accessible to where people live, and where they buy or consume drugs," said Kerr, explaining why the report recommends that safe injection sites be set up on both the north and south side of Thunder Bay.

Create hubs with health, social services

The other key recommendation is that these facilities be integrated with other health and social services, which would offer people access to education, housing, a referral to a detox program or even just the opportunity to take a shower and cook a meal.

Rebecca Johnson, a city councillor and the chair of the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy, says supervised injection sites would help people who use drugs, and help the city deal with a major health issue. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

"To me it's a win for everybody if we can actually establish a supervised injection site," said Rebecca Johnson, a city councillor and the chair of the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy. "

I think there is a win for the individuals who are using drugs and I think there is a win for the community at large in that we are addressing a very serious health issue," she said.

Public consultations

The next step is to hold public consultations on potential locations for these sites, said Johnson.

She hopes a supervised injection site can be set up in Thunder Bay within a year.

The Ontario HIV Treatment Network and the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy launched the feasibility study in March 2016.