I remember hearing about the supervised injection center in Vancouver a few years ago and I haven’t given it any thought since then. It seems like an idea worth trying:
There was a big push to get a facility like this opened in the late ’90s when overdose rates in British Columbia were reaching epidemic proportions. I think in 1997 we had something like over 450 overdose deaths in the province. Those are absolutely needless deaths.
Participants at InSite have their own booth, which is clean and sanitary. We offer them new needles, alcohol swabs, a sink to wash their hands and medical care. We can dress their wounds and address chronic health issues. We can also link them up with income assistance and housing.
At our front desk, people can pick up equipment such as condoms, lubrication, needles, cookers, filters and everything you need for injecting safely. We give out as much as people think they need. You could take hundreds of needles if you want. There’s no limit. It’s not a one-for-one needle exchange.
Also, we ask that participants maintain the confidentiality of others who use the site.
They use the harm reduction model:
Well, first, we’re trying to reduce harm any way we can without requiring abstinence. We’re not trying to push things on people. I mean, we want people to be abstinent, but that’s not our expectation. Our push is to promote safety and harm reduction.
The approach we take is to promote self-respect. We’re trying to get people to respect themselves regardless of their addictions or whatever’s going on. It’s pretty much unconditional. We’re not going to meet these people with a bunch of shame. We’re not going to lump our expectations and our hopes onto them. Usually they feel shitty enough themselves. They already know that they fucked up. They’re already their own worst enemy.
We’re in this beautiful position where we’re not family and we’re not friends. We have the capacity to accept them again, easily and openly.
And why should tax payers support such a center?
People often ask why taxpayers should be paying to enable others to get high. It’s really backward. Research supports that InSite is cost-effective in preventing the spread of Hepatitis C and HIV, which are really expensive to treat and maintain. So it’s cost-saving. Every cost-benefit analysis I’ve seen has supported InSite.
The war on drugs has failed. It’s incarcerated god knows how many people with treating their addiction, it’s costs untold amounts of wealth and the drug problem isn’t going away. Drug addiction is a medical problem with legal aspects, not a criminal problem with a medical side. It’s time we stopped pretending we can jail everyone whose ever smoked a joint and think that we’ve solved the problem of drugs.