News / Edmonton

Edmonton group wants medically supervised drug injection site

Group hopes to use existing harm reduction agencies to create sites where users could inject under the supervision of nurses.

Nicole Henry injects morphine he bought on the street at the Insite safe injection clinic in Vancouver. An Edmonton group wants to bring a similar service to the city, but use existing harm reduction efforts rather than a purpose built site.

The Canadian Press

Nicole Henry injects morphine he bought on the street at the Insite safe injection clinic in Vancouver. An Edmonton group wants to bring a similar service to the city, but use existing harm reduction efforts rather than a purpose built site.

A local group is looking to bring supervised drug injection sites to Edmonton to prevent overdoses and curb the spread of disease.

The group, Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services Edmonton (AMSISE), is hoping to create a site in Edmonton.

Unlike Insite in Vancouver, AMSISE wants to partner with an existing agency rather than set up a new site. 

Elaine Hyshka, a researcher in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta and a member of the group, said she studied 320 users last year and found 80 per cent indicated they had injected drugs in a public place. She also found through surveys that 26 per cent of them had shared needles.

Hyshka said while the city has needle exchange program they are not open around the clock.

“One of the main barriers that they reported that was at the root of that sharing, was not being able to access sterile supplies,” she said. 

She said a supervised injection site would could significantly reduce overdoses and prevent other medical problems.

“It would provide a sterile and safe environment where people could access other services and receive medical attention from nurses.”

She said it could also help people get long-term help dealing with their addictions.

“This service provides a conduit to treatment and other long-term health care solutions.”

Opening a supervised injection site requires an exemption from the federal government. Hyshka said the group has more work to do to refine their proposal and then seeking a permit could take several months as well.

Coun. Scott Mckeen said he believes Edmontonians aren’t going to push back hard against the idea.

“I signaled in a few places that I am supportive and so far I haven’t received any negative comments.”

McKeen said most people understand addiction is a health care issue and he believes the approval of sites in individual neighbourhoods doesn’t have to be a public issue.

“I don’t know why anyone would need to know.”

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