Today is International Harm Reduction Day and advocates in B.C. are celebrating.
Vancouver is home to Insite, the first legal supervised injection site in North America. There is also a second safe injection site in Vancouver, at the Dr. Peter Centre in the west end.
Insite opened in 2003 and its existence has been unsuccessfully challenged several times by the federal Conservative government.
Despite the federal government’s attempts to shut it down, a study released by the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. shows that 76 per cent of British Columbians support harm reduction.
A 2011 study found that fatal overdoses within 500 meters of Insite dropped by 35 per cent after it opened.
There’s been a 55 per cent decrease in new reported cases of Hep C, and a 78 per cent decrease in the number of new reported cases of HIV among people who inject drugs.
No one has died at Insite as a result of an overdose.
Harm reduction in B.C. consists of the supervised injection site, access to clean crack pipes, free condoms, access to naloxone to counter opioid overdoses, managed alcohol programs and methadone maintenance programs. Peer support is also offered.
In 2013, almost 4.1 million free condoms were distributed in B.C.
8.3 million needles were also handed out last year and Insite is credited for a large reduction in the prevalence of open drug use and drug use-related litter in the Downtown Eastside.
© Shaw Media, 2014