Toronto needs supervised injection sites. Research shows that they will reduce health risks and harms that people, including youth who are homeless, face with intravenous drug use.
The reality is that youth may use drugs to cope with the pain and trauma of being homeless and marginalized. It’s one of many human reactions to enormous stress. But using substances in unsafe spaces and ways can be deadly. The latest data shows that Toronto’s rate of fatal overdoses is increasing. In 2013, there was an all-time high of 206 overdose deaths.
Medically-supervised injection sites will increase safety in the process of using substances and increase the likelihood that people who use substances will get support to build healthier coping mechanisms. Supervised injection sites are a critical component in harm reduction to prevent overdose and the spread of infections such as hepatitis C and HIV. Here’s a snapshot of the risks: research shows that 1 in 5 people who inject drugs in Toronto have done so with needles previously used by someone else, and the rate of needle sharing among homeless youth runs above 40% (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2006, I-Track: Enhanced Surveillance of Risk Behaviours among People who Inject Drugs, Phase I Report; Barnaby L, et al., 2010, Homelessness & Health: Homeless Youth Speak Out About Harm Reduction).
But there is hope, and there are models that work. A study of Insite, Vancouver’s supervised injection facility, found that fatal overdoses decreased in the area around the facility by 35% after it opened. It demonstrated that supervised injection facilities are effective at reducing overdose deaths in communities with high rates of injection drug use.
For 20 years, Eva’s has provided harm reduction programming for homeless youth. We deliver services from a harm reduction framework and we also partner with organizations that deliver harm reduction programming. We support the establishment of supervised injection sites as part of the spectrum of harm reduction programming that so many people, including homeless youth, need.
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