Ontario HIV Treatment Network and Thunder Bay Drug Strategy assessing the feasibility of supervised injection services in Thunder Bay

published on February 4, 2016 in Thunder Bay Live

Supervised injection services can have positive impacts on communities where they are located, including:

– Reducing the risk of HIV transmission and overdose deaths
– Increasing the use of addiction treatment services
– Reducing the extent of injection drug use in public places, and
– Reducing the amount of injection related litter in public places

In March 2016, the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, with support from the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy, will begin assessing the feasibility of supervised injection services in Thunder Bay. Supervised injection services are health programs where people inject drugs under safe conditions and can gain access to sterile injecting equipment.

While feasibility work for supervised injection services has been done in Ottawa and Toronto, it hasn’t been done in Thunder Bay, so we don’t yet know if there is a role for the services in Thunder Bay. However, Cynthia Olsen, Coordinator of the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy, believes it’s an idea worth investigating.

Dr. Thomas Kerr, Co-Director of the Urban Health Research Initiative at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and one of the study’s lead researchers, knows the sites are sometimes controversial but says they can provide a “win-win solution” for many cities. “People who use drugs get the help and support they need, and communities are safer as a result.”

Dr. Kerr notes that the goal of the study will be to assess whether supervised injection services are a good fit for Thunder Bay. “The services are not needed everywhere, and it’s important that research be undertaken to determine whether there is a role for such services in a given setting.”

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