Harm-reduction advocates call for safe injection sites in Regina

Harm-reduction advocates set up a mock safe injection site outside Regina's city hall to educate the public about the benefits of such sites. Derek Putz/Global News

A group of harm-reduction advocates is calling for safe injection sites in Regina.

“Injection sites already exist in Regina. They exist in alleys, they exist in homes, and so I think the need for a safe injection site absolutely does exist in Regina,” frontline worker Lorne Gill said.

“We have twice the national average rates of HIV in Saskatchewan, and we also have the highest rates of hospitalization for opioid overdoses per capita,” Gill said.

The group set up a pop-up site offering information about safe injection sites outside city hall on Wednesday to educate the public.

READ MORE: Edmonton councillors postpone decision on safe injection sites public advisory committee

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“This is actually an entry point for a lot of people into detox and into recovery,” Gill said. “I don’t think the public necessarily knows that unless they’ve seen it in action.”

Nesa Tousi, a representative from Collective Resistance to Injustice, a group advocating for the safe injection sites, said safe consumption or injection sites offer a stigma-free environment.

“Folks are able to access in a way that reduces social and physical harms that they would otherwise come into contact with,” she said.

“The overdose prevention sites that are peer-run have access to oxygen, naloxone [and] harm-reduction supplies,” Tousi said.

But Cora Gajari, executive director of local community support organization Carmichael Outreach, said more information is still needed.

“I really applaud the efforts of the people who set up in front of city hall. In terms of safe injection sites, though, I don’t know that we really have enough evidence to prove that we need them here in Regina,” Gajari said.

READ MORE: Toronto trying to open supervised injection site ahead of schedule

In a written statement, Regina Police Service said it would support any efforts to help people live in safety.

“Our preference would be that no one would engage in the risk and harm that goes with drug use, but we know there has to be help and support for those already addicted,” said Regina Police Service spokesperson Elizabeth Popowich.

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The province said in a written statement that it’s not currently considering supervised consumption sites, but it is monitoring them in other places and will review evidence and research as it becomes available.

The Ministry of Health also said it continues to support methadone maintenance treatment and recovery programs, the take-home naloxone program and needle and syringe programs.

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