In September of 2003, North America’s first safe-injection site opened in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Operated by the local health authority, Insite is allowed to exist thanks to funding and support from all three levels of government. Ottawa’s role includes a three-year exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
The success of the facility has been remarkable — it is used by an average of 607 people per day and provides a clean, health-focused location where addicts can inquire about addiction services and health concerns. This has reduced the spread of blood-borne infections such as HIV and Hepatitis C and reduced public injections in the neighbourhood. In its nearly three years of operation there have been 453 overdoses at Insite, but not one has resulted in a fatality.
Despite this excellent record, Insite will be closed this September if federal Health Minister Tony Clement does not renew the exemption allowing it to operate. Certainly, this is a case where voices from the public would help Clement make up his mind. A citizen’s group in Vancouver has created a website with facts about Insite and instructions on how to tell the federal government you are behind the facility.
In addition, you can e-mail the Health Minister at [email protected].