vancouversun.com, January 08, 2012

Group calls for second supervised injection site in Vancouver

The group that runs InSite says there is a clear need for a second supervised injection site in Vancouver.

Mark Townsend from the Portland Hotel Society (PHS) — that operates North America’s first supervised injection site — says with more than 12,000 registered users and 800 injections a day, the initial location in the drug-riddled Hastings Street corridor is becoming overcrowded.

“I think there needs to be another one, for sure,” Townsend said on Sunday. “The one facility is tiny in a big, big city, so clearly, you would have to have others,” he said.

Two years ago, the PHS rented a space in the area of Victory Square and had designs done for a second site, but their focus was shifted onto keeping the initial InSite open as the federal government challenged its existence.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously to keep it open in September 2011.

Townsend said the PHS would have to receive approval from a number of different authorities before proceeding.

“We would have to get the city, the police, the health authority and the provincial government (to approve) and then apply for a federal exemption to do it, so it’s a complicated step,” he said.

Vancouver counsellor Kerry Jang said the original InSite, which opened in 2003, reduces the spread of HIV and other infections on the street, and has got drug users in touch with health-care workers.

But Jang also said health-authorities must determine an actual health need across the city for a second site before city hall will back it.

“Our position is pretty clear — if the health authority deems it necessary then we’ll support it,” Jang said on Sunday.

The federal government believes the health-care system should be focused on preventing people from becoming drug addicts, rather than facilitating drug use.

Anna Marie D’Angelo from Vancouver Coastal Health, that funds InSite and provides the health-care services, said there are no plans in the works for a second site.

“I don’t know if (the PHS) are going to do this on their own, but they’re certainly not doing it with VCH,” D’Angelo said.

“We would need a pilot project to see the health benefits, and get exemptions from federal drug laws, and that’s not something we’re entertaining at this time,” she said.
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