Harm Reduction: Canada Health Minister Says More Safe Injection Sites Should Open If Communities Approve 9/30/05

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With Vancouver's Downtown Eastside safe injection site now two years old and working as planned, Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh said last week that more should open across the country provided they have the backing of neighborhoods, local politicians, and health officials. If local communities are willing to support them, they should be allowed to operate, Dosanjh said in remarks quoted by the Canadian Press.

"I'm a big proponent of harm reduction," Dosanjh proclaimed. "I believe that we need to make sure we provide assistance to people who are addicted."

Health officials in Vancouver report that in the two years the Downtown Eastside site has been open, hundreds of overdose deaths have been prevented and many injection drug users have been directed to counseling and addiction services. Officials reported that zero overdose deaths occurred at the site.

The Vancouver site is a three-year pilot project operating under an exemption from Health Canada. It will need to be re-approved next year. While Dosanjh refused to say whether he will grant renewed approval, he did hint broadly he was leaning in that direction. "I would be inclined to approve it," he told Canada Press.

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Issue #405 -- 9/30/05

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