Academic community in Halifax voices support for overdose prevention site
A Halifax law professor says he is one of several academic community members who are supportive of an overdose prevention site (OPS) in Halifax.
“There’s been a kind of advocacy consortium of social scientists, service providers, lawyers, professors and some of my own law students who have been trying to create the application to permit this to go forward,” said Archibald Kaiser said, a professor at the Schulich School of Law.
“So, it’s been a small but lively and I hope ultimately effective group.”
The provincial government has not yet approved the opening of an OPS in Halifax but has previously stated that they are working with community-based harm reduction organizations to determine appropriate models for safer consumption in Nova Scotia.
Kaiser feels an OPS would help increase overall public health and safety.
“Our government and governments around the world are now recognizing that we can’t arrest ourselves out of the harms that are done by drugs. We can’t use the criminal law exclusively,” he said.
“We have to think more about how we can promote public safety and public health simultaneously and I think the root of harm reduction, including an overdose prevention site, really does accomplish both goals. It will conduce to protecting public safety but it will also save lives.”
Harm reduction advocates feel that misconceptions surrounding an OPS only push the dangers associated with drug use further into the shadows, where risks of overdose and disease are heightened.
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“It’s like arresting everybody that has diabetes. You know it’s not going to stop the problem and you’re just going to push it underground and the further they push it underground, the more deaths occur, the more violent crimes occur and they’re only just going to make the problem worse as far as I see,” said Gillian Mitts, a member of the Halifax Area Network of Drug Using People [HANDUP].
Overdose prevention sites are part of a wide range of safe consumption models that have opened across Canada, in response to the overdose crisis flagged by Health Canada.
“You really need to bring it into the light and give people an option to see it as a social problem, so that they can actually make the changes and feel comfortable doing so without being judged,” Mitts said.
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