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Insite Vancouver BC: Safe Injection Sites
The Entrance To Insite
Insite Is Keeping IV Drug Use Insight
There is a dark side to the beautiful city of Vancouver BC, and despite the name of the safe injection facility being Insite, the supervised dope house is one area that some citizens wish was not in sight in the Downtown Eastside neighborhood. Located in what is sometimes called "Canada's poorest postal code," the Downtown Eastside clinic is the only North American legal "shooting gallery." The City Of Vancouver estimates that the city is home to a sub-population of at least 12,000 injection drug addicts, and Insite Vancouver BC has been giving them all a refuge free from the legal and health consequences of their addiction since 2003. Good times like the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games have come and went, but illicit drugs remain prevalent, with the highest concentration of homeless addicts living out their lives on Hastings and Cordova streets and the surrounding areas. Navigate some shady alley and avoid the police in order to cop a bag of heroin or cocaine, and then take it to Insite Vancouver BC, where once you are inside the doors, the police cannot harass you.
Local support for the Insite safe injection site seems to be quite positive, as evidenced by fundraisers and surveys. Nearly 3/4 of the Vancouver City population supports the operation of the collaboration between Vancouver Coastal Health, the Vancouver Police Department and PHS Community Services Society. This is in spite of the United States' Bush administration calling the Insite facility "state sponsored suicide." Clearly there is a wide gap in thought across the border. The proponents of the Insight building simply want to insure that addicts have a place to get clean needles in order to help lower the transmission of disease. Anything an addict needs is readily available except the drug itself. Syringes are handed out and disposed of as they would be in a hospital setting. Cookers, water, tourniquets, and filters are also all available to the addict looking for a fix. Far from being assisted suicide (although anyone would agree that the long-term effects of consistent iv drug use are deadly), the legal injection site actually has handled 1418 overdose situations since the inception. These people all lived because of the immediate medical intervention. The overdose rate has dropped throughout the area, and many who overdose on the outside are never quite so lucky. On the other hand, the "shooting gallery" can effectively become an experimental zone where addicts feel free to test their limits knowing that the medical attention will be available. That is one argument against Vancouver and it's seemingly "too nice" homeless services. Many feel that the environment that is created when Vancouver offers decent housing and safe drug use areas and supplies only creates a mindset that makes it easy to be homeless. Many succumb to their addictions and might live off of these services forever.
Homelessness In Vancouver
An excellent documentary regarding the Vancouver Downtown Eastside area and the Insite Vancouver BC location is called Streets of Plenty, and the documentary is a must-see. Misha Kleider leaves the normal life he leads for 30 days and truly begins to experience what it is like to exist on the dirty streets and in the dark alleys of Vancouver. At first, he has it seemingly easy with all of the free clothing, housing and services that the emergency shelter offers him. But, eventually he takes it to the next level and experiences crack and heroin which leads him to a deeper understanding of what much of homelessness can often be about, and how addiction plays a central role in the plight of many who have walked astray.
The Insite controversy still arises many times. Another take on the Insite harm reduction strategy from Vancouver's own street paper is here. As recent as September 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a ruling that the facility should remain exempt from the country's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This ruling means that Insite's doors are likely to remain open for a lot longer. According to Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson that is perfectly fine. He says that you have to meet people where they are, and that might mean meeting them in the depths of their drug addictions and doing so without judgement. For now, the Insite injection facility will continue to keep at least some of the drug users in sight of medical professionals and out of the sight of residents and tourists.