Supervised-injection sites have been open in Edmonton for five months, and those who operate them say the over 600 people who have used them are proof the sites were needed.
Since March, the sites at Boyle Street Community Services and George Spady Society have registered around 650 users.
“A lot of people who are very marginalized in our society get an opportunity to reach out, to connect with health care professionals and supports, be connect with other services, and have a space where people are treated like people,” Erica Schoen told 630CHED’s Ryan Jespersen Show.
The director of supervised consumption services for Streetworks, Schoen said these sites now able to build relationships with staff that can open doors to treatment, and each visit can be a learning experience.
LISTEN BELOW: Erica Schoen speaks with 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen
Those registered users add up to around 12,000 visits – more than 2,000 per month. To Schoen, that shows how desperately the sites were needed – and demonstrates how they can affect the community.
“That’s 12,000 times that people aren’t sharing needles. So that’s definitely a reduction in the transmission of HIV and hepatitis. That’s 12,000 times that the needle is going directly into a sharps container.”
Among those visits, the sites have documented more than 140 reversed drug overdoses. Users go through several supervised steps along the way and there’s often a good chance they can be convinced to take a safer dose. If an overdose does occur, medical staff are always on hand.
The sites don’t just focus on safe use, Schoen said. She emphasizes a strong push towards prevention and treatment. Because relationships and trust can be built, she said it becomes a safe space for users to explore their options.
“In terms of people not wanting to use anymore, a lot of the time the treatment options aren’t working for them,” Scheon explained. “In my experience working as an addictions and mental health nurse, people need a sense of purpose and need to be included in the decision.
“Shaming people into treatment doesn’t work, and we need to provide alternatives.”
Watch below: Marliss Taylor from Streetworks explains why these facilities save lives
“Safe space” are two of Schoen’s key words, she said. Another is positivity.
“We just wanted a safe space with positive messaging – you can do this, whatever your goals are. Just to ensure people feel supported. We want to instill hope.”
The Royal Alexandra Hospital has also incorporated a supervised-injection site for patients, and the facility planned for the Boyle-McCauley Health Centre is expected to open in the fall.