Saturday, February 21, 2009

Is the Insite model in sight for the Northwest?

The possibility of safe injection sites springing up across the Norther portion of British Columbia has quickly become a discussion point for communities along Highway 16.

As we outlined on the blog on Thursday morning, a recent Northern Health meeting in Prince Rupert floated the prospect of the controversial injection sites becoming part of the health picture in the Northern Heatlh delivery areas.

While still clearly just in the talking phase, it was a subject that was quick to find some feedback on the local chat board hackingthemainframe and was of interest enough to become the front page headline story in Thursday's Daily News.

Medical professionals debating whether the time is right for inSite type facility in region
The Daily News
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Pages one and two

A meeting of the province's top medical officers in Prince Rupert last October might ultimately lead to a supervised injection site in the B.c. North.

According to Northern Health's chief medical officer David Bowering, the possibility was discussed at the meeting because of the evidence that was reviewed regarding the effectiveness of inSite injection site in Vancouver's downtown eastside.

"We like to take advocacy positions where we think there is strong evidence that some action or undertaking would benefit the public health," said Bowering.

While there is no immediate recommendation that a site open up in the North, inSite has been controversial since its opening because there have been many critics who have suggested that the site promotes drug use rather than helps to end it.

Proponents have suggested that the injection site is a clean way in dealing with the increase of HN and drug use by offering a clean and safe location

"In terms of improving the outcomes of the addicts that were making use of it and the local neighborhood safer and increasing the likelihood that people using the site will go on to treatment services, the evidence was very strong," said Bowering.

According to a December Northern Health update on HIV in the north, there were 13 people diagnosed with the terminal illness between 2006 and 2007 iri the Northwest, which includes Prince Rupert.

"We thought it was important that other health authorities be made aware that we think they ought to consider a similar undertaking as they confront this issue and let the health authorities look beyond the sort of traditional harm reduction activities like needle exchanges," said Bowering.

The December report also shows some interesting differences between the proactive approach men and women have when it comes to being tested.

Northwest health service delivery area (HSDA) reported that more than twice as many women than men were tested for HN infection in 2007.

The report estimated that approximately 30 per cent of people who are infected by HIV are not aware of it and therefore are not altering their behaviour to decrease the risk of spreading the disease to others.

One of the ways HIV is spread is through infected needles, which is why needle exchange programs came about.

InSite was set up in Vancouver to take that harm reduction process one step further by having a safe, clean and monitored place where drug users could inject narcotics and have easy access to addiction services.

It would also get dirty needles of the streets, reducing the threat of accidental infection to passers-by.

Bowering emphasized that no detailed consultation has been made with Northern Health communities to see if this kind of site would be a good fit for the community.

"1 think it is a good thing that we support harm reduction and that health authorities realize the continuum is quite broad and it include things like a safe injection site," said Bowering.

A detox centre in Prince Rupert might be a more realistic proposition for the North Coast.

Right now, the nearest centre is in Prince George, which is an eight-hour drive away.

"It is something that is being looked at by our mental health and addictions department and I know there is a model they are looking at for a detox, which may not be based on a free-standing detox centre, but I can't speak on that any further," said Bowering.

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