Safe injection site could operate in Winnipeg without provincial approval: report

A file photo of an injection kit. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A new report submitted to City Hall says a supervised consumption site could work in Winnipeg without provincial approval, but funding would be an issue.

Back in February, city council had asked the public service for a report within 120 days exploring whether a low-barrier, supervised drug consumption site would work in Winnipeg.

The report from Deputy CAO Michael Jack, made public on Tuesday, says, “With regards to specific provincial legislation or policy, while the Province of Manitoba has not supported SCS’s, there is also no specific provincial legislation that would create any greater impediment either.”

It says the city would be able to apply to the federal government for an exemption if the province didn’t approve.

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Premier Brian Pallister said the province still has no plans to open the sites.

“There’s been such a focus it seems in some quarters on making the drugs available in an environment with a safe injection site, that we’re forgetting about all the other possible things we could be doing,” Pallister said Tuesday.

“We’re not forgetting about those things. We’re going to continue to invest in those initiatives.”

The premier says they are focused on “dozens” of initiatives related to addictions and wellness.

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The report says one identified barrier to the site is funding, as “significant” costs would be expected.

“Typically, the only long-term sustainable SCSs have been those with financial commitments from their provinces or the local health authorities in those regions,” reads the report.

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“Rather than operation of a site, stakeholders indicated that City support of a stakeholder-run facility would be optimal. Support could be financial (grants, funding); operational (provision of trained staff through the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Services Emergency Paramedic In the Community program).”

The report says conversations with stakeholders determined supervised consumption is already happening in Winnipeg, but not in the way most people think.

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There are a number of public or semi-public restrooms in various locations where people are using substances. And while those businesses don’t condone it, there is unintentional harm reduction taking place such as an attendant knocking on a door that remains locked for an inordinate amount of time, or when the washroom itself is cleaned and sanitized regularly and hygiene products are monitored and restocked regularly.

Proximity is also important, according to the report, and that academic research says a site needs to be located within 500 kilometres of the predominant location of those using.

“Beyond that distance, the research seems to indicate that those using substances will choose their existing environments/locations, rather than travel to the facility.”

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