Pubdate: Mon, 30 Jul 2007
Source: Peak, The (Simon Fraser U, Edu CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Peak Publications Society
Authors: Shannon Grant, Aimee Iverson, and Charlene Savoie

Letter of the Week:


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 less 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 that they
are not supportive of harm reduction and believe that addiction is a
criminal matter. They also believe that 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 councilors.

Insite acts as the first point of contact for many IV drug users in
the Downtown Eastside. During visits to Insite, health care
professionals provide educational services on how to self-inject in a
safer, 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
counseling 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
marginalised populations, we encourage Prime Minister Steven 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, and
Clement, and to show your support by e-mailing Harper.

Shannon Grant, Aimee Iverson, and Charlene Savoie, Douglas College 
Nursing Students
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