While the UK is once again consumed by the drug policy endarkenment, deciding whether to symbolically increase prison sentences for cannabis smokers from 2-5 years, to our shame the debate on more important issues like supervised injecting rooms has fallen off the agenda completely with ministers claiming -100% incorrectly- that such policies would violate our commitments to the UN drug treaties. Notice that they never state that such facilities wouldn't deliver positive public health outcomes. No, as ever this is all about politics, with cowardly ministers fearful of critical headlines willing to sacrifice lives to satisfy their pollsters.
Well: elsewhere in the world the rational voices of public health and science are fighting back and standing up to the ideologues.....
Professor Neil Boyd, SFU Criminologist Speaks Out on InSite Research
OTTAWA - Professor Neil Boyd, a Criminologist at Simon Fraser University who was recently engaged by the Stephen Harper Government to conduct research on InSite, Vancouver's supervised injection site(SIS), addressed the Ottawa Press Gallery today outlining the benefits of the facility. These public comments are a blow to the Federal Government, as Professor Boyd is the Government's key "witness" in the ongoing BC Supreme Court case regarding InSite's legal status.
"There is no doubt that InSite has made a positive impact for the individuals who use InSite, the residents, service providers and business operators in the neighbourhood, and for the greater public health of the community," said Professor Boyd.
Boyd's research, compiled for an advisory committee specifically selected by the Stephen Harper Government, highlighted many positive impacts of InSite's work, including:
- InSite is strongly supported by business operators, service providers and residents in the neighbourhood surrounding the facility.
- An intentionally conservative cost-benefit analysis demonstrated that there are significant savings to tax-payers as a result of InSite's work.
- InSite has proven to have a positive impact in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and the consequent costs of its treatment.
- InSite prevents drug overdose deaths.
- There have been no adverse effects from InSite on drug use patterns, crime, or public disorder.
"The research presented re-confirms the kinds of results obtained from the other Health Canada funded evaluation," said Professor Boyd. "Mr. Harper should respect science and its principles -- the findings are demonstrated consistently in independently peer-reviewed scientific journals."
"The Government's questions relating to InSite's impact have effectively been answered," added Professor Boyd.
In September, 2007 a letter was published in the scientific medical journal Open Medicine, signed by more that 130 prominent Canadian doctors and scientists urging Mr. Harper to refrain from placing ideology ahead of scientific evidence.
Mark Townsend, cell: 604-720-3050 - PHS Community Services Society
Nathan Allen, cell: 604-833-0748 - InSite for Community Safety
"The Government's questions relating to InSite's impact have effectively been answered." - Professor Neil Boyd, Criminologist, Simon Fraser University
In May 2007, the Harper Government formed a politically-appointed advisory committee to re-explore questions relating to InSite's work. Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd was contracted through a Health Canada RFP process to relay findings from new research to the committee. On April 11, 2008, the Government released a report, Vancouver's INSITE service and other Supervised injection sites: What has been learned from research?, using Professor Boyd's data.
The new Health Canada funded research demonstrated that:
- Taxpayers receive $4 in benefits for every dollar spent on InSite, based on a conservative cost-benefit analysis. These tax savings do not take into account any potential cost benefits resulting from improved public health, or reduced stress on the criminal justice system.
- 80 per cent of police officers, business owners, residents and service providers interviewed in the area thought the service should be expanded or retained.
- More than half of the police officers interviewed in the survey shared the opinion InSite should remain open.
- Research on calls for service in the area indicated that InSite had not increased drug dealing or crime in the area.
- Self-reports from users of injection site service indicate that needle sharing decreases with increased use of injection site services, reducing the risk of contracting or spreading HIV and Hep C.
- A private security company contracted by the Chinese Business Association reported reductions in crime in the Chinese business district in a surrounding area.
- InSite encourages users to seek counselling, detoxification and treatment. Such activities have contributed to an increased use of detoxification services and increased engagement in treatment.
- InSite staff have successfully intervened in over 336 overdose events since 2006 and no overdose deaths have occurred at the service. (868 OD events since InSite opened in 2003) Professor Neil Boyd's data re-affirms the substantial research undertaking already completed through previously funded evaluation funded by Health Canada.
The Federal Government has spent close to $2 Million to evaluate InSite, making it likely the most thoroughly researched primary health carefacility in history.
With funding from Health Canada, the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS conducted a rigorous scientific assessment of InSite.
Laid out in 25 academic papers published in world renowned, independently peer-reviewed, scientific medical journals, the evaluation concluded the following:
- The SIS has been associated with reductions in public disorder related to injection drug use. There has been a 45% decrease in open drug use as a result of InSite. (Wood et al., Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2004 Petrar et al., Addictive Behaviors, Stoltz et al., Journal of Public Health, 2007)
- The SIS has attracted and retained a high-risk population of IDUs who are at heightened risk for HIV infection and overdose. (Wood et al.,Am. Jrnl. of Preventative Medicine, 2005 - Wood et al., Am. Jrnl. of Public Health, 2006)
- Use of the SIS has been associated with reductions in HIV risk behaviour (syringe sharing). (Kerr et al., The Lancet, 2005, Wood et al., American Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2005)
- SIS staff has successfully managed hundreds of overdoses - There have been 868 lives saved at InSite (Kerr et al., IJDP, 2006, Kerr et al.,IJDP, 2007)
- Many individuals at risk for HIV infection receive safer injection education at the SIS, and increases in safe micro-injecting practices have been observed (Wood et al., International Journal of Drug Policy, 2005, Stoltz et al., Journal of Public Health, 2007)
- Use of the SIS has been associated with increased uptake of detoxification services and other addiction treatments. There has been a 33% increase in use of addiction treatment as a result of contact with InSite. (Wood et al., New England Journal of Medicine, 2006, Wood et al.,Addiction, 2007)
- The establishment of the SIS has not prompted adverse changes in community drug use patterns. (Kerr et al., British Medical Journal, 2006)
- The establishment of the SIS has not prompted initiation into injection drug use. (Kerr et al., American Journal of Public Health, 2007)
- The establishment of the SIS has not led to increases in drug-related crime. (Wood et al., Substance Abuse Treatment. Prevention, and Policy, 2006)
In January 2006, following media remarks from Stephen Harper stating he was waiting to hear reports from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police before making his decision, the RCMP contracted two researchers, Irwin Cohen and Raymond Corrado, to independently review the research from the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.
Their respective papers, compiled for the RCMP, referenced the following:
- Reductions in public disorder including public drug use and prevalence of injection related litter was significant (R. Corrado, Analysis of the Research Literature on INSITE, 2006).
- There was a good likelihood that a reduction in the epidemic of blood-borne diseases was enhanced since a substantial number of InSite clients stopped syringe sharing. (R. Corrado, Analysis of the Research Literature on INSITE, 2006).
- It is necessary to develop policies that protect the public, educate about the harms of drug use, maintain public order, and reduce the risk of an epidemic from blood borne diseases. (I. Cohen, A Review of the Research Literature on Supervised Injection Sites, 2006)