Supervised injection rooms continue to be a controversial public health policy issue. This is a particularly interesting issue because it intersects with both mental health and substance use policy domains. Interestingly, despite the body of research that supports supervised injection programs and their ability to reduce transmission rates of disease, improve community safety, and reduce deaths caused by overdose, they still receive considerable opposition. Harm reduction policies and programs such as the INsite program in Vancouver often receive opposition on the basis of some of the myths and misconceptions relating to substance use, for example, the notion that leniency on substance use policy and legislation might result in increases in substances use, particularly amongst vulnerable populations such as youth (Livingston, 2012).
WHAT IS THE INSITE PROGRAM?
INsite opened in 2003 for the purpose of providing a safe, health-focused service where people can inject drugs and connect to health care services. INsite operates on a harm-reduction model, which means it aims to decrease the adverse health, social, and economic consequences of drug use without requiring abstinence from drug use.
Services provided by INsite include; primary care to treat disease and infection, addiction counseling and treatment and housing and community support. INsite is North America’s first legal supervised injection site and is supported by the BC Ministry of Health Services and Vancouver Coastal Health and PHS Community Services Society who operate the facility.
INsite was successful in getting a three-year exemption from Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act from Health Canada in order to operate in Vancouver. The exemption was extended twice, until June 30, 2008, when the federal government declined to extend the exemption on the basis of legislative and policy arguments at a federal level. INsite supporters have since launched a number of court challenges to the Federal government’s attempts to stop the program and to date has successfully won these court challenges.
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This activity is to encourage you to think critically about the complexity of the mental health and substance use policy context by exploring the INsite Safe Injection Rooms program as a case study. In this activity, you will choose to represent either the ‘against argument’ for INsite Safe Injection Rooms or the ‘for argument’ for the program. Each side of the debate is to respond to the following statement:
“Supervised injection sites do nothing to deter drug use or help drug addicts.”
Your argument (whether for or against) will be assessed based on its being able to address the following issues/questions in relation to the INsite program:
• population and public health issues associated with INsite (for/against)
• relevant policies, laws and regulations relating to INsite (i.e. consider harm reduction policy in BC, laws against substance use at the Federal level, etc) (for/against)
• Is it improving substance use services in BC? Why/why not?
Write a brief post of about 200 words that argues either for or against the statement, “Supervised injection sites do nothing to deter drug use or help drug addicts.” Remember to consider the issues above. Post your argument to the online discussion entitled “Controversial Issue Discussion.”