News / Edmonton

Edmonton report outlines new details on safe consumption sites

Edmonton has distributed more needles than most Canadian cities, says advocate

Vancouver has safe injection sites for people who are addicted to drugs like heroin.

Metro File

Vancouver has safe injection sites for people who are addicted to drugs like heroin.

In 2014, there were 324 people in Edmonton sharing needles and injecting in public spaces, according to the group looking at safe consumption services in the city. 

That’s more than what Vancouver saw before launching safe consumption clinic Insite, says Shelley Williams, chair of Access to Medically Supervised Injection Services.

Council will review a new report on access to medically supervised safe consumption sites Monday, after the province announced in late October it would give AMSIS $230,000 to apply to the federal government for exemption from drug laws.  

But AMSIS requires the city and Edmonton police to sign off on supporting safe consumption sites before moving forward with the federal application.  

The report paints a troublesome picture for the city — Streetworks expects to distribute 2.3 million needles this year, and there were 1,800 cases of people using emergency rooms due to opiate or heroin poisonings.  

Five hundred poisoning cases required a bed at that hospital, which costs $1,605 per day per person. 

Williams said the numbers in Edmonton are relatively high when compared with other cities.

“The number of needles being given out has increased over the last number of years,” she said. “So we need to develop services.”

The report also revealed that the Royal Alex wants to offer safe consumption services while identifying the need for three more sites, which haven't been specified. 

The report said the services won't come at a cost to the city.  

But safe consumption sites aren’t the “magic bullet,” Williams added.

“This is one of a spectrum of services that needs to be in place,” she said. “We also need expansion in treatment and other services, like housing and homelessness.”

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