Thomas Kerr spots errors in Tony Clement's advisory report on Insite

Today, Health Minister Tony Clement released an advisory panel's report on supervised-injection sites, and it echoes much of the research that has already been done.

The report stated that the average user at Vancouver’s supervised-injection site Insite has been injecting for 15 years, with 15 percent injecting cocaine and 51 percent injecting heroin.

“Insite staff have successfully intervened in over 336 overdose events since 2006 and no overdose deaths have occurred at the service,” the report stated.

The report also noted that Insite provides a clean environment; the general public has positive views of Insite; it encourages users to seek counselling and treatment; and mathematical modelling shows it saves approximately one death by overdose per year.

Dr. Thomas Kerr, director of the urban health research program at the B.C. Centre of Excellence in HIV/AIDS, told the Georgia Straight that the report is quite positive, and confirms many of the findings from the centre’s evaluations.

“In some ways, it’s stating the obvious, and it’s too bad that Health Canada had to pay to tell us what we already know,” Kerr said. "Really, now the question has got to move beyond should Insite stay open to how can we expand supervised-injection-site programming in Canada.”

Kerr, one of the principal investigators of Insite, took exception to a couple of the panel’s conclusions, noting there were “important factual inaccuracies in the report”, including the claim that Insite costs $3 million per year to operate.

“Insite does not cost $3 million a year to operate,” Kerr said, adding that he thinks it’s closer to $1.5 million. “It’s a significant overestimate on their part.”

The report also questioned the assumptions that researchers make about HIV prevention. Notably, the report stated that there was “limited local data available regarding baseline frequency” of injection and needle sharing.

Kerr described this claim as "ridiculous".

“I published a paper in The Lancet, which is no simple consultant report, which shows that there is about a 70-percent reduction in syringe-sharing, and that that reduction only occurred since Insite opened," Kerr said. "We actually looked at historical syringe sharing.”

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