Does Kingston Need a Safe Injection Site?

Safe Injection Site, needle drugs, Kingston, OntarioLast week, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously decided to uphold British Columbia’s right to operate the safe drug injection site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The highly controversial Insite facility was established in 2003 to curb overdoses and disease spreading that is synonymous with illicit needle drugs. What is more contentious, while cocaine and heroin are considered illegal everywhere in Canada, addicts can step inside and use the Insite facility without risking drug possession charges. According to Vancouver Coastal Health, Insite accommodates an average of 855 visitors per day, while it has contributed to a 35% decline in overdoses in the surrounding area.  The facility has many opponents, including the Prime Minister, however it has also earned the admiration of officials in Toronto and Montreal who are looking at ways to implement similar programs.  Accordingly, this week’s poll asks:
[poll id=”77″]
Before you jump to the comment section and rage on about how ludicrous this idea may sound, consider the fact that Kingston is already home to the Street Health Centre (SHC),  which facilitates disease prevention and treatment for individuals who are involved in illicit drugs, sex trade, high-risk youth, the homeless, as well as people recently released from incarceration.  More importantly, SHC began as a needle exchange program in 1992 and in recent years it has expanded to offer methadone treatment for people recovering from opioid dependency.  Similar to Vancouver’s Insite facility, Kingston’s SHC offers clients health, treatment, and counseling information, as well as referrals to various external agencies with expanded capabilities.

Is it time to consider expanding the SHC’s mandate, or establish a new facility altogether to serve as a local safe drug injection site? Or do you strongly stand on the other side of this argument?  Please drop off your thoughts on safe injection sites below.

Thanks to BinaryApe for today’s photo.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

14 thoughts on “Does Kingston Need a Safe Injection Site?

  • Whiel the SHC might be a good place for a safe injection centre, I think the people at Goodlife gym that they rent space from might have other thoughts on the matter.

    • Where would you propose locating the facility then? Are you saying that a safe injection centre should be in the middle of no where, far and away from anyone who might stumble across someone on drugs? That wouldn't necessarily make it overly easy for users to get to.

      • I won't speak for Sal (which it looks like you've tried to do Harv.) but if I owned the Goodlife Gym, I'd be concerned about the safety of my clentele and staff, and would also be concerned about the affect it might have on my business if I own one nearby. I would also be concerned about having one near my house….. Dont confuse this with whether or not I think its a good idea, because I DO think its a good idea. But having concerns about ones safety, and livelihood, and home investment, are reasonable concerns as well.

        • You’re right, I definitely put words into Sal’s mouth. I simply wanted to jump into logic behind the statement. Concerns re: client safety might be well founded, but like a lot of things, people are all for big change until it sets up shop next door. If the SHC is co-located within Goodlife, perhaps there’s already a history of safety issues there. That would be interesting to know as there are likely some similarities in the respective client bases of the SHC and a safe injection site. Even so, if not there, then where would you put such a site? A central, close to the downtown location would be key to ensuring access.

          • If it is co-leased with Goodlife that is one thing, but if Sal is suggesting that Goodlife owns the building, they (or any landlord) may not be keen on renting it to a needle exchange. I think that is likely more inline with Sal's original post. Putting it somewhere that the potential clients can easily access makes sense so perhaps near existing addiction or rehab facilities, shelters or downtown city buildings.

          • The SHC already is a needle exchange centre, it has been for years and years, before Insite opened, and the SHC was back in the old location by the Hotel Dieu.

            "People using injection and inhalant drugs can access clean, free, sterile equipment at Street Health Centre. We provide a variety of needles and syringes as well as sterile water, tourniquets, Vit C, spoons, stericups and alcohol preparation pads. We also provide filters, screens, glass stems, rubber tubing, condoms and biohazard bins for disposal. All products are provided for one time use only. "

            They give out sharps bins, and users can take those with them and dispose of sharps at any pharmacy in Ontario, and probably with the SHC itself. They even have a little drop-box out front, clearly labeled "THIS IS NOT A MAIL SLOT"

          • Good pick up, you're right as far as I am aware the SHC offers a needle exchange program – but not a safe inject site.

      • SHC does now have a Safe Injection Site aka Overdose prevention site(OPS) and it is working as advertised it has saved many lives in its short tenure already They are no longer in the goodlife building they own with KCHC their own building around the corner from their previos location at 115 Barrack ST. And as for safety concerns there has never been any major violence at SHC in the 20+ years that it has been in operation there has been the odd scuffle between clients but few and far between far far less in fact than any bar and the whole concept of a harm reduction center like Street Health Center Increases public safety in many many ways They collect used syringes they provide counseling there is the methadone program (which saved my life 16 yrs clean and sober) it provides primary care doctors and Nurse Practitioners and Psychologist’s they do referral’s to treatment programs for addiction and other mental and physical health problems for people who may otherwise be forgotten or otherwise be pushed aside, and on and on and all of this in many ways increases Public safety and can help people get their lives back on track And I wonder If the person who owns Goodlife if there had in the time that SHC was in the building or a block away has there ever been a danger to any of your clients from SHC clientele as far as I Know NO I could be wrong but I think i would have heard something SHC was right beside H’art studio for close to 20 years and they never had one incident with SHC clients as a mater of fact clients of SHC sometimes had worked or volunteered at H’art studio which is a place where people with disabilities like Downs Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy etc went to be creative
        I am not saying the clients are angels there is bad apples in all groups but SHC does a lot of good for a lot of people and The OPS saves lives Period.

    • A benefit to locating a safe injection site at the SHC is that users would be frequenting an area that helps people beat addictions, through the methadone program, medical care and cournselling. Having this become a "safe" place can't be a bad thing and will lessen a gap between harm and health.

  • It may not be a bad idea to have one in Kingston. Lately there’s been an increase in needles left at Skeleton Park. A program like this may help avoid needles being thrown in children’s play areas.

    • My case in point exactly. I frequent the park and have noticed needles, increasingly so, over the past few years. The student ghetto and area between KGH and Hotel Dieu have also yielded similar sharp items.

  • I am all for this idea. A couple of years back I met a of a wonderful young woman who would play the violin for change on Princess Street. After not seeing her for a while I asked another street person where she was. I was shocked to learn she had died of a drug overdose. A safe injection site may well have saved her life. There is bound to be a huge hue and cry from the NIMBY crowd on this issue but the battle deserves to be fought and won.

  • Don't see it happening here. Vancouver's costs over $3m a year (more then say, Kingston's entire recently passed budget for affordable housing). Vancouver being a special case with the abnormally high usage rate on the eastside, on top of being far larger then kingston. Even with it, reports show those choosing to go there are doing so a minority of the time they are injecting

  • I'm mixed on this…I understand the purpose of a safe injection site, but on the other hand there is some evidence to suggest that it actually prolongs drug addiction. Current thought (that is debated at this time ) is that an addict needs to "hit bottom" before seeking help, and safe injection sites give a nice, secure place for addicts to indulge their habits really without consequence. I'm also not convinced that a safe injection site prevents crime and prevents the sequella of drug addict behaviours in a community: it can provide a safe, secure area in the neighborhood with a steady source of clients for drug dealers, and for random criminal acts such as burglaries and prostitution that addicts participate in to fund their habits. I'm not sure that money spent here actually helps resolve a drug problem or if it prolongs it. I'd rather see the money go to prevention or treatment, personally speaking. Needle exchange programs and the sort already exist, so I'm not sure if the benefits of a safe injection site outweigh that of a decent prevention program.

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