Will London Support Supervised Injection Site?
A group of researchers wants to find out whether London is ready for a supervised injection site for drug addicts.
From February to April, researchers with the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection will be studying the possibility of establishing health programs in the city in which people inject drugs under safe conditions and have access to sterile injecting equipment.
London is one of only two Ontario cities being examined in the feasibility study. Thunder Bay is the other.
Ayden Scheim, London’s lead study investigator based at Western University, says the cities weren’t selected at random.
“London faces some unique challenges related to injection drug use. We have higher examples of emergency room visits related to opioid drug use than the provincial average. Paramedics responded to about 600 overdose calls in 2013. We also have a higher amount of Hepatitis C among people who inject drugs than the national average,” says Scheim. “Although we are a smaller community we face some very large challenges related to inject drug use.”
The study will look at the the willingness of people to use supervised injection services and the acceptance of those services within the community.
“We know there are concerns around having supervised injection services at all and around where they are located,” says Scheim. “As part of the study we are going to be interviewing stakeholders from neighbourhood groups, from business, medical services, police, et cetera, to get their perspectives on the potential for supervised injection sites and their concerns. That’s a really important part of the process because if services are going to be feasible here, then community support and acceptance will be required.”
Supervised injection services are already in place in numerous cities around the world, including Vancouver.
Researchers say supervised injection sites have been found to have positive effects on the community and on the individuals who uses drugs.
“They have been demonstrated to reduce risk of Hepatitis C and HIV transmission, fatal overdoses. They also give people an opportunity to become connected to the health care system,” says Sheim. “At the community level we see a reduction in injection drug use in public places and less injection equipment being disposed in public places.”
Researchers plan to host a community forum and release study results in the fall.