Canada’s safe injection center brings drug addicts ‘out of the alleys’

published on December 17, 2015 by Meera Senthilingam in CNN

Vancouver (CNN)“People need to feel comfortable using.”

These are the words of Darwin Fisher, manager of InSite, a supervised injection facility in Vancouver, Canada. Here, Fisher manages 13 booths, each one lined with mirrors and bright bulbs resembling those of a dressing room — and they are in demand.

As he stands and watches, all the booths are being used by people staring closely at their reflections. Their goal is to inject themselves safely with illicit drugs — and do so legally.

Up to 1,000 people visit here each day.

Safe injection

Fisher’s team at Insite includes a front line of nurses, counselors, mental health workers and peer-support workers to ensure people inject their drugs safely — reducing the risk of overdose and of infections such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

“It’s about helping people who have been marginalized to the alleys and bring them into the light of healthcare,” says Fisher. The booths at InSite are used by people from nearby streets hoping to satisfy their addiction, but with a nurse close by.

Music plays gently in the background as people approach a table stocked full with the equipment they came here for — needles, cotton pads, antiseptic and more. All sterile. All safe to inject with.

This creative approach includes a crack-pipe vending machine at a nearby drug resource center, which dispenses clean pipes for just 25 cents. People bring their own drugs.

Downtown life

These controversial facilities are located in the heart of Downtown Vancouver, on its Eastside, infamous for its high concentration of homelessness and drug use. Back in 1997, Vancouver had the highest rate of HIV in the developed world. Today, experts say this area has the lowest life expectancy in all of British Columbia and 27% of intravenous drug users are HIV positive.

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