A supervised-injection facility similar to Vancouver’s Insite would be a good deal for Victoria taxpayers, a new study by researchers with Simon Fraser University concludes.
“We would not only be saving people’s lives but also reducing costs to the health-care system,” said Ehsan Jozaghi, the paper’s lead author. “I think people should move away from ideology and just look at the numbers.”
Specifically, researchers found that by opening one supervised-injection facility in Victoria, the city would avoid 13 new HIV cases annually and prevent 2.3 fatal overdoses each year.
The paper, published by the journal Urban Geography on July 3, notes that one HIV infection costs Canada’s health-care system an estimated $210,000 per year and that the loss of one life is valued at roughly $979,000.
Victoria mayor Lisa Helps has spoken in support of harm-reduction programs. “I will work hard to make sure that we have a safe consumption site in this city,” she said during a candidates’ debate ahead of last November’s civic election.
Since then, Victoria has included supervised-consumption services in its strategic plan for 2015 to 2018.
In a telephone interview, Coun. Marianne Alto said she’s optimistic the city will open its first supervised-injection facility before the end of that period.
“We can do a lot of the prep work,” she said. “But, ultimately, we are going to come to a point where we are going to hit a brick wall and that is called the federal government.”
Alto explained that Bill C-2, the Respect for Communities Act, which passed into law in March this year, has made it significantly more difficult for regional health authorities to obtain the permissions required to open a facility similar to Vancouver’s Insite.
Nevertheless, she said stakeholders will meet in the fall to begin the long process required to open such a facility.
The Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver’s West End operates an unsanctioned supervised-injection room. It applied for federal exemptions required to operate legitimately in February 2013 and is still waiting for an answer on that application.
Health Canada did not make a representative available for an interview by deadline.
In related news, a July 12 bulletin issued by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) states there has been a surge in drugs found to contain fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s more toxic than heroin.
A province-wide study found 29 percent of participants tested positive for fentanyl and, of those drug users, 73 percent said they did not consume fentanyl knowingly.
“Fentanyl-detected illicit drug overdose deaths in British Columbia increased from 5% of total illicit drug deaths in 2012 to over 25% in 2014,” the BCCDC warns.
It notes it is not just heroin that is testing positive for fentanyl but virtually every street drug, including cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, and cloned prescription pills such as those sold as OxyContin.