Pubdate: Wed, 18 Jul 2007
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Vancouver Courier
Authors: Shannon Grant, Aimee Iverson and Charlene Savoie


To the editor:

Re: "Insite, Onsite both deserve support," Letters, July 4.

In September of 2003, Insite was opened to provide support for 
injection-drug users in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. This 
facility, the first of its kind to be created in North America, has 
resulted in fewer overdose deaths and open usage of drugs in the 
downtown area. Due to a recent political shift, the closure of Insite 
is seen as imminent. Conservative politicians have stated they are 
not supportive of harm reduction and believe addiction is a criminal 
matter. They also believe government money should not be used to fund 
activities related to drug use. We feel it is imperative to share 
some significant information with the citizens of Vancouver before 
any conclusions are made about the fate of Insite.

Vancouver Coastal Health reports that, between 2004 and 2006, over 
7,278 individuals registered at Insite. Over 18,000 safe injections 
occur at Insite each month. Of the 453 overdoses that occurred within 
the facility, none resulted in fatalities. During this time, 6,227 
nursing interventions were provided at Insite. As well, over 4,084 
clients of Insite had referrals to alternative health care resources 
with 40 per cent referred to addictions councillors.

Insite acts as the first point of contact for many I.V. drug users 
(IDU) in the Downtown Eastside. During visits to Insite, health care 
professionals provide educational services on how to self-inject in a 
safe, cleaner method. These educational interventions are provided to 
reduce the risk of abscesses, as well as reduce the incidence of 
related health challenges. In addition, Insite offers addiction 
counselling and referrals to other health services. Insite employees, 
as well as peers who have accessed treatment, are readily available 
to discuss treatment options and to help facilitate an individual's 
transition towards abstinence. Although the goal of Insite is to 
achieve harm reduction, treatment is seen as another primary goal to 
reduce the likelihood of negative health consequences associated with 
IV drug use.

In conclusion, should Insite close, the health consequences for those 
living with injection addictions would be unfavourable. Fatal 
overdoses and sharing of syringes would likely increase again, thus 
elevating the spread of dangerous infections. As well, the open use 
of drugs in the area will also likely increase.

As nursing students who share an interest in working with 
marginalized populations, we encourage Prime Minister Stephen Harper 
and Health Minister Tony Clement to put aside their political agenda 
and maintain funding to Insite. We encourage concerned citizens to 
contact their local MLAs or MPs, Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan, 
Canada's Minister of Health Tony Clement and to show your support by 
emailing Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Shannon Grant, Aimee Iverson and Charlene Savoie,

New Westminster
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